Nancy Nobile described her father, Roy Overholt, 89, who died on Sunday, as a local celebrity around Brookfield. In the impressionable eyes of countless Little League baseball players, as well as appreciative coaches who participated in the Roy A. Overholt Invitational Tournament, he was much more than that. He was a fellow baseball fanatic, a valued friend, a role model and a legend.
Marty Berek, who coached the Brookfield Flaming Red Hot Cheetos at Overholt in 2009, summed up the tournament founder’s impact through the traditional late-summer event.
“Mr. Overholt is a legend when you’re talking about baseball in Brookfield,” Berek said. “He was always very involved with the tournament and set it to such a high standard.”
Overholt, who was born on May 1, 1924 in the Hollywood section of Brookfield, graduated from Riverside-Brookfield High School in 1942. After high school, he joined the Armed Forces and served with the 7th Army in Europe until 1945. After returning home, he married his wife, Audrey, and the couple eventually moved back to Brookfield in 1961. While the soft-spoken Overholt plied his trade as an electrician at Lyons Electric Company until his retirement in 1985, his passion — in addition to Audrey and their five children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren — was baseball.
“He did a lot for baseball and every day he would head over to work on the [Kiwanis Park] field,” his daughter, Nancy recalled. “He had opportunities to be involved with local government, but I think he preferred spending time encouraging and helping kids. He was a very honest, quiet and caring man who didn’t like arguments or conflict. My mother also loved baseball so they were the perfect couple.”
With the support of his wife of 65 years, Overholt began a Brookfield-based tournament in 1963. He invited championship teams from area youth baseball leagues to participate in the event. The Roy A. Overholt Invitational Tournament, often referred to as, the “World Series of District 9,” celebrated its 50th anniversary this summer.
Overholt’s motivation was simple. He wanted to host a unique baseball tournament that kids would enjoy and remember the rest of their lives.
“The tournament is really for the kids,” he said during an interview at his home last summer. “It keeps them out of trouble and gives them something to strive for as a team. I’ve coached [in the tournament] in the past, and I didn’t want it to end any more than the kids.”
His home located directly across the street, he faithfully took care of the field named in his honor at Kiwanis Park.
“Roy really made the tournament special,” said Jim Bednar, former president of Brookfield Little League. “He told me how surprised he was the tournament took off like it did. But because we were the only tournament with lights, initially, plus a great field, everybody wanted to play here.”
The tournament’s appeal included a meticulous field, pennant flags along the outfield wall and player introductions.
“That’s what makes the tournament so special,” Audrey Overholt said. “These kids are so impressionable at 11 and 12. You can see their eyes light up when they play in such a special tournament and when they saw Roy, too.”
Chris Agne, president of the Riverside-Brookfield High School Booster Club, fondly remembers playing in the event as a member of South Cicero’s 1973 and 1974 teams.
“I remember going to Overholt was like playing in the big leagues,” said Agne, whose son Justin is the starting catcher for the RBHS baseball team. “I remember the chance to play at night, brick dugouts, Kiwanis Park — those were the incentives to win the respective league you were in. If there ever was a local field of dreams, it’s without question the Roy Overholt Tournament Field at Kiwanis Park.
“The loss of Roy will be felt by so many people, not only in Brookfield, but for anybody who knew him or experienced the Overholt Tournament.”
There will be a wake at Johnson Funeral Home, 3847 Prairie Avenue in Brookfield, from 3 to 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 12. Services will be held at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Park and Grant avenues in Brookfield on Friday, Dec. 13 at 11 a.m., followed by interment at Woodlawn Cemetery, 7750 W Cermak Road, Forest Park.
Memorials can be sent to St. Paul Lutheran Church or to Youth Services at Hermitage House, Box 748, Edinboro, PA 16412.