At age 94, Ovidio Acosta was getting ready in April for a new baseball season just as he had done every spring at Tamiami Park.
Then tragedy struck when an accidental fall on Apr. 5 took his life.
“This is a sad moment, and a loss to Tamiami Park and our community,” messaged Alexander Ruche among 87 coaches and parents mourning Acosta’s passing.
Founder of Miami Friends Baseball Association, the patriarchal figure coached and helped guide thousands of young baseball players during 27 summers.
Now, Field Five at the park where he spent those countless hours honors his name.
“There is no other name more fitting for this field,” declared Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan C. Zapata during a 10 a.m. dedication program on Sept. 15. “Acosta was the heart and soul of youth baseball at Tamiami Park.”
Angel Posada, a friend who directs the fall and winter baseball league at Tamiami Park, added, “He was so dedicated to the program, you cannot begin to count how many hundreds of lives he touched and encouraged over the years. With our winter team league numbering 1,200, Tamiami Park baseball programs total nearly 2,500 young players each year.”
As founder of the Friends Association, the Cuban-born Acosta established the local non-profit organization in 1989, serving as its first president to provide baseball for youngsters from ages 4 to 17.
During its first year, Miami Friends fielded 13 teams and 124 participants. By 2012, there were 98 teams and 1,201 participants.
“He spearheaded several improvement efforts improving the Tamiami fields over the years,” added parks director Jack Kardys. “He directed a financial assistance program to afford every child an opportunity to play baseball.
“Acosta ran one of the most impressive and successful youth programs that this community has ever seen,” Kardys added.
A close friend, Ralph Sanchez, is the current commissioner of the association founded by Acosta, who is survived by a niece and her two children; his wife, Zeneida, passed away in 2008.
Recipient of many awards for his achievements and those of the association, countywide recognitions honored Acosta during five separate years, as well as a special 1993 award from the City of Sweetwater and a Diamond Award from United to Serve America organization in 2002.
Still another association friend, Maggie Trujillo Lopez, paid special tribute upon Acosta’s passing: “This man means a lot to our community, and even Major League Baseball as he has contributed to many baseball greats of the past and current talents,” she wrote. “To many of us, this man was like a grandfather.”