For the Daily Journal
The impact the Mercer family has on the Franklin baseball community was in clear view on top of the team’s scoreboard as Mercer Field was dedicated Thursday.
A plaque commemorating the field name for the “first family of Franklin baseball” has been added to the side of the home dugout.
The Grizzly Cubs celebrated the dedication game with an exclamation point, posting an 11-0 victory over Southport in five innings. The game ended via the 10-run rule on C.J. Brown’s three-run homer.
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Franklin coach Ryan Feyerabend played his senior year in 1996 for Jeff Mercer Sr. and later became his assistant coach. Mercer had three stints as baseball coach for a total of eight seasons. Mercer is retiring as the school district’s executive director of finance June 1. His wife, Pam, is retiring from her teaching job at Whiteland High School after the school year.
Mercer’s four sons, Jeff Jr., Daniel, Joe and Anthony all played baseball at Franklin.
“It’s really a testament to my dad, the leader that he is and how much he gave of himself to the community, to us boys and raising us to always been cognizant of our impact that we had and our responsibility to be great teammates and to give the best of ourselves,” said Jeff Jr., now the first-year Indiana University baseball coach. “It’s an incredible honor. It’s obviously the place that raised us and the people that cared for you. There is no greater honor than to be rewarded with something like this.”
Mercer Sr., who was once an IU assistant coach, last coached the Grizzly Cubs in 2012.
“We clearly humbled and honored,” he said. “I was taken aback (upon learning of the honor in December). When you think back of all the people that have an impact on Franklin baseball, Ted Server and Noel Heminger, I would have thought it would be one of them. We’re very appreciative.”
Jeff Jr. graduated from Franklin in 2004, Joe in 2009 and Anthony in 2013. Daniel died at 19 in 2006 after a battle with brain cancer.
“Daniel was a great player; he was the best of the bunch,” Jeff Jr. said.
Mercer Sr. coached all but his son Joe.
“I coached on the other field and on this field both,” Mercer said. “It’s really nice for everyone to come out. I’ve seen a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time. Everything about this has been terrific.”
Pam’s role in the baseball family was essential, too.
“She was the glue that held us all together and always has,” Jeff Jr. said.
Feyerabend, in his sixth season as head coach, said Mercer Sr. got him back in baseball as an assistant.
“I’ve known the family since I was 12,” Feyerabend said. “To have those guys back, it’s a special night. And to play this well makes it a fun night. With the things the family has done and continue to do, this was going to be special even if we got clobbered. But to play well with them here is a memory I’m going to cherish for a long time.”
The Grizzly Cubs (6-2) scored three runs in first on a run-scoring single by Luke Miles and a two-run double by Jared Ross. Franklin added three runs in the second on Miles’ two-run single and an error.
Franklin boosted the lead to 8-0 in the fourth on a two-run homer by Luke Torrance.
Mason Sullivan started and went two innings for the victory. Brown pitched the final three innings.