Ocoee Little League is holding its opening day ceremonies Saturday, Feb. 29, and although former Mayor Scott Vandergrift won’t be there, he certainly will have a presence there.
Central Park, located at 560 Flewelling Ave., in the heart of Ocoee’s Little League and Pop Warner fields, is to be renamed Vandergrift Central Park in an official ceremony. The unveiling will take place at 9:30 a.m.
The community is invited to attend the ceremony. Mayor Rusty Johnson, city commissioners and city of Ocoee staff will be present.
Two of Vandergrift’s three children are attending the unveiling, as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A grandson, Brent Deitrick, will throw out the first pitch of the Little League season.
“Mayor Johnson agreed that the Central Park would be perfect because my father is one of the individuals who built the Little League field and was responsible for gaining support of the organization,” said Donna Vandergrift Deitrick, daughter of the former mayor.
“My father would love it,” she said. “He would love that the ceremony is on leap year Feb. 29. He would love that something he put so much time, energy and money into will have his family name on it. … He had brothers that coached Little League there, and it honors not only my father but his family. I am sure he is tickled with being honored. … I’m glad I was able to have something named after a man who devoted over 25 years to the city.”
Deitrick said Mayor Johnson and Commissioner George Oliver were instrumental in getting the project off the ground.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Johnson said of the park renaming. “Scott was a big part of the city, and the big thing was the Little League at the park. He was involved in the Little League, he coached a lot of the little kids back in the day, and I think it’s something we should do.”
“I think he’d like it,” Johnson said. “It was a big part of him. “
Vandergrift's memberships ran the gamut, from Ocoee Lions Club and Rotary Club of Ocoee to Friends of Lake Apopka and the Florida League of Cities. He was a charter member and past president of the Ocoee Jaycees, the Ocoee Little League and the Tri-County League of Cities.Vandergrift, born March 22, 1940, was the youngest of five boys. He served three years in the U.S. Navy, 25 years with Bellsouth Telephone Company and another 40 as a real estate broker.
He was a board member of the West Orange Chamber of Commerce and president of the Ocoee Volunteer Fire Department.
The Ocoee native died Dec. 21, 2017, at the age of 77.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.