A stiff rain subsided just in time for the presentation of two ceremonial scholarships outside the gates of Paul Richards Park on Wednesday.
And not even the steamy, brow-watering humidity could dampen the spirits of the eight now-graduated Waxahachie seniors as they held $20,000 in financial commitments in their hands.
The funds, both presented in $10,000 grand totals and then split between the recipients, were made possible through the Dulin Brothers Memorial Scholarship and the Mike O'Daniel Memorial Scholarship. Both have direct and emotional ties to the century-plus-old Indians baseball program.
The Dulin Brothers Memorial Scholarship was established in honor of Robert and Rodney Dulin in 2013.
Robert Dulin tragically passed away in a car accident late in 1976 during his sophomore year at Waxahachie High School. He was thought by many to be a sure-Division I prospect, if not headed for professional baseball, with a fastball that touched 90 miles per hour at 15 years old. Rodney passed away at his home in 1998.
The memorial scholarship is awarded to a senior member or members of the Waxahachie Indian baseball team who have shown exemplary achievement on and off the baseball field. It is funded through t-shirt sells at an annual free skills camp held during the season, a silent auction conducted annually on senior night and generous donations from the Waxahachie RBI club and its supporters.
To Billy Earl and Linda Dulin, Paul Richards Park and the Waxahachie Indians baseball program "means everything" to the Dulin family.
"It means a lot to me, one reason being that I think it would mean a lot to him (Robert)," said Billy Earl, who is the father of Robert and Rodney, at a measured and heartfelt pace just after the scholarship presentations. "He kind of liked to be in the spotlight and this is just another way."
Billy Earl then paused and looked around the historic grounds, taking a few brief moments to soak in the laughter and words of congratulations being passed around its grand entrance.
"We were here when very little of this was done," he added, pointing toward the large, eye-catching front gate dedicated in recognition of 100 years of Indians baseball and the reconstructed bleachers just beyond the entrance. "Kids used to chase fields in the outfield when the creek would get up. This place is great and I hope it never changes.
"I don't come as often as I should, and it's hard to understand, but it doesn't just feel right sometimes. It kind of gets to me. I can take it when I do come, but then I get to thinking about things and then I'll leave pretty quick."
He noted Wednesday, though, was a day of celebration and it was his honor to play a small part in recognizing the successes of Austin Gallagher, Adam Carrizales, Sage Hampton, Jordan Fay, Peyton Graham and Bryson Campbell, who all received a portion of the $10,000 Dulin Brothers Memorial Scholarship.
It was also a day to congratulate Zach Navarro and Abbie Morton, who received shares of the $10,000 Mike O'Daniel Memorial Scholarship.
Raymond Michael "Mike" O'Daniel first joined the staff of KBEC 1390 AM in 1985 as the anchor of the Saturday morning Classic Country Show. He quickly began to work with longtime "Voice of the Indians" Ken Roberts on the Classic Country Coffee Cup morning broadcast and the Flea Market.
The broadcast team of O'Daniel and Roberts became known as the official voices of the Waxahachie Indians and were notorious for their quick-wit, love of sports, and kindness to their listeners.
O'Daniel passed away in 2006, leaving behind a legacy in Waxahachie athletics and radio too significant to let be forgotten.
It as only a few months after O'Daniel's passing that a group of his friends established the Mike O'Daniel Scholarship Foundation. The hope behind the annual scholarship is to enable Waxahachie seniors to further their education in the fields of music or communications.
The scholarship fund is largely aided by the annual "Classic Country" Mike O'Daniel Memorial Golf Tournament, hosted by the Waxahachie RBI Club.
The tournament will be held for the 14th consecutive year on Monday, Oct. 14 at the Old Brickyard Golf Course in Ferris.
Barry Navarro, president of the RBI Club, said the board is shooting for a full field of 144 golfers, which would be a first for the tournament. He noted the annual outing typically sees between 110-135 golfers.
Proceeds from the tournament directly benefit Waxahachie Indians baseball, historic Richards Park, the Mike O'Daniel Memorial Scholarship and the Dulin Brothers Memorial Scholarship.
"The importance of today is to ensure that we don't let the memories of Robert, Rodney and Mike go forgotten," Navarro said. "It's an honor for the RBI Club to play a small role in keeping those legacies alive and helping these Waxahachie graduates continue their education. And the biggest thanks goes to our alumni and supporters. Without those donations and time, we wouldn't be able to provide scholarships to our seniors or keep Paul Richards Park one of the best in the state."