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Cornerstones make up inaugural Legion Baseball Hall of Fame honoreesTell North Platte what you think
 
Courtesy Photo­Image
George Lebedz
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Chuck Francis
Courtesy Photo­Image
Bill Hayes
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Shawn Fleck
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Chuck Schwartz
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Lynn Stockall

The North Platte Legion Baseball Post 163 Hall of Fame was officially formed on April 22. The first honorees were inducted May 4.

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With all of the historic names and faces involved with the North Platte Legion Baseball program over the years, it was a tall order for the Hall of Fame committee to a select a few for an inaugural class.

But there were six names that stood out above the rest.

They are George Lebedz, Chuck Francis, Bill Hayes, Shawn Fleck, Chuck Schwartz and Lynn Stockall.

“Everyone knows these six names across the state,” North Platte Legion Baseball vice president Pete Volz said. “It was a very tough decision to take for the first class. But these were the six we had a consensus on.”


George Lebedz

For Volz and the rest of the committee, it was a no-brainer to induct former coaches George Lebedz and Chuck Francis.

Without them, there would be no North Platte Legion Baseball program, at least not in its current form.

Lebedz, a New Jersey native came to North Platte as a member of the Cleveland Indians minor league affiliate team, the North Platte Plainsmen.

He was the North Platte senior team’s second coach in 1961, after Bill Zedicker coached the first season in 1960.

Chuck Schwartz told the Bulletin in 2008 that Lebedz was a no-nonsense coach who believed that mastering the fundamentals of the game was the biggest key to victory.

““George was an old school coach and he really stressed the fundamentals,” Schwartz said. “He believed in trying to do things right and (he thought) if you did that, you’d win.”

Lebedz was coach for 14 years before resigning after becoming office manager at Muncipal Light Water.


Chuck Francis

When Lebedz left the program, Francis, who had coached the Juniors for five years, was promoted as coach of the Seniors.

Francis coached the Seniors until 1990 when he became activities director at Columbus High School. He retired from that position in 2007 and he returned to North Platte, afterward.

Since Francis was a teacher and he had the summer off, the North Platte program expanded its schedule when he took over and the Platters started to play more games in surrounding states.

Francis won two state championships in his 21 years as a coach. The North Platte Juniors won the state championship in 1973 and the Seniors took the state title in 1989.

Schwartz said that Francis is remembered for his ability to motivate and get the most out of his players.

“Chuck was a little more motivational (than Lebedz),” said Schwartz. “He was not afraid of getting after people. But like George, he taught how to play the game the right way."

In the 30 years combined that Lebedz and Francis coached the Seniors, the Platters qualified for the state tournament 17 times.

“George and Chuck were the rock for this program,” Volz said. “They basically started it.”


Bill Hayes

When talking about the top players to come through the North Platte Legion Baseball program, Bill Hayes and Shawn Fleck are often the first to be named.

Hayes played from 1972-76 as a pitcher and catcher. After graduating from St. Patrick’s High School, he went on to play at Indiana State and in 1979, he was a first-round selection of the Chicago Cubs.

Hayes has been involved in professional baseball since and he has two world championship rings.

Hayes is currently in his 14th season as the bullpen catcher and an assistant coach with the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

Hayes’ story is proof that dedication to the game of baseball can take you anywhere.


Shawn Fleck

Shawn Fleck is the most prolific hitter in the history of the program. From 1987-89, he set five hitting records, including the most home runs in a season and in a career.

Fleck signed with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1989, but was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma in his first year with the Huskers. He transferred to Fort Scott Community College in Kansas but was never the same player after his battle with cancer.

“What we did (with the players) was take one from before 1980 and one after,” Volz said. “These two players are the most symbolic of North Platte baseball.”


Chuck Schwartz

For over 40 years, Chuck Schwartz has been the radio voice of the North Platte Legion Baseball program.

Schwartz has called over 800 games for the team. He is now the Voice of the First Nationals on Wild Country 93.5 FM.

But that only scratches the surface of what Schwartz has meant to the program. Schwartz has also kept his own stats while calling games for the team, thus he is the main source of information for the records for the program.

“Chuck is the reason we were able to create and record a history of the program,” said Volz.

The Legion Baseball Hall of Fame is the second major honor Schwartz has received in 2013. He was also given the distinguished alumni award for North Platte High School earlier this year.


Lynn Stockall

For over 30 years, Lynn Stockall has worn many hats for the North Platte program. He has been the general manager of the program for many years and is responsible for a lot of the scheduling and other team operations.

In addition to managing a downtown sports store for dozens of years, Stockall has been the head of the maintenance of Bill Wood Field, doing everything from painting ads on the outfield walls to mowing the grass on the field and raking the infield.

Most every day, Stockall has been an ambassador for the program. Players and coaches have came and gone, but since 1978 he has been a fixture of North Platte baseball.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 5/7/2013
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