The Life of Riley

This file photo from May of 2015, during the construction of Choccolocco Park in Oxford, shows one of the dugouts along the edge of the baseball field. The Oxford City Council Tuesday voted to name the park’s entrance road after the late Rusty Riley to memorialize his service as the park’s first director. It was noted during the council meeting that Riley had input into the creation of the entire park, particularly the layout of the dugouts.

OXFORD Helping create and then run Choccolocco Park in Oxford was more than a job to Rusty Riley.

“The biggest thing was his passion for the game of baseball and that he wanted kids to have the best experience they could have,” said Steven Waits, Oxford city councilman.

During its Tuesday meeting, the Oxford City Council named the park’s entrance road after Riley, who died last year, to honor his service as the park’s first director.

“We had citizens request we name the entrance after him … this isn’t just us doing this,” Councilman Mike Henderson said after the meeting. “They wanted this because of the work he did with the kids and everything.”

Riley, 40, died on June 4, 2017, after a battle with cancer.

The former college baseball player and travel youth baseball coach became the park’s first director before it was even built. The park opened in 2016 and includes 16 baseball, softball and soccer fields, along with walking trails, playgrounds and a running track.

“He had input into all of it, especially the layout of the dugouts,” Waits said of Riley. “He just had a vision for that park.”

Part of that vision was attracting high school regional athletic tournaments to the park, Waits said.

“There were people who said we could never get those kinds of tournaments here,” Waits said.

But the city has done just that, including on Tuesday, when the council authorized the mayor to execute a contract with the Alabama High School Athletic Association for regional softball tournaments at the park.

“He did put a lot of time into that park, even before it was built,” Mayor Alton Craft said after the meeting. “It was the right thing that the council named the entrance after him.”

Also during the meeting the council renewed an agreement with the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission to continue updating the mapping and zoning of the city. The city agreed to pay $7,200, which represents 20 percent of the total $36,000 project cost. The commission will use federal money to cover the rest.

The council also renewed its agreement for bus services in the city with the Anniston-based commission. The organization offers the bus services in Oxford and Anniston, mainly for low-income residents and the disabled. The city agreed to pay $152,535 for the continued transit service.

“It’s a great service for our citizens,” said Chris Spurlin, council president.


Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.