While their playing days might be over, the lessons Hancock County’s community leaders learned on the sports fields continue to guide them today. In this week-long series, we look back on the positive effect athletics had on their lives.
GREENFIELD – An office couch. Electrical tape-wrapped wiffle balls. New beginnings provided from a drain spout.
The images illustrate a clear picture of Kelly McClarnon’s childhood, a classic American youth defined by the intertwined nature of sports, children and the mentors that make that connection often a glowing one. McClarnon’s upbringing writes the sort of script Hollywood storytellers adore.
Take, for instance, McClarnon’s earliest sporting memory. The year is 1973, and McClarnon and his Greenfield Youth Baseball Association team have piled into coach Ed Elmore’s station wagon bound for Riverfront Stadium, the home of the Cincinnati Reds.
“It was very hot. We had packed cheese sandwiches in the spare tire compartment under the jump seats. By the time we got to Cincy, our sandwiches were melted, but in a good way. It was like having a fresh grilled cheese!” remembers McClarnon, now a member of the Greenfield Board of Works and Public Safety as well as a City Securities Account Executive. “Walking up that ramp and seeing the beautiful bright green artificial turf playing field – the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.”
Many of McClarnon’s childhood recollections revolve around the Greenfield Boys Club – now the Boys and Girls Club of Hancock County – and Jim Andrews, the Club’s director.
“Jim wouldn’t suffer fools gladly; he looked like a rough guy on the outside, but he was just always there and was very approachable,” said McClarnon, whose father, Keith, was Greenfield’s mayor from 1976-1995. “He had an office and it was always a big thrill to sit on his couch and hang out with him and the older guys. He let us be a part of that.
“He was just generous beyond words. I had an incredible experience with him. I was lucky, not everyone had as good of a father as I did. I know Jim filled a role in their lives. It was just a neat time and Jim was a guy that kept it all going.”
Name the sport, and the Boys Club had it – basketball, baseball, football, foosball, floor hockey, ping pong and more.
“It was just a great, great place to be around other kids,” said McClarnon, who turns 50 in October. “It was safe and welcoming.”
Growing up in Greenfield, McClarnon and his friends were generally left to their own devices.
“It seemed like all of my buddies were the last of five, six kids and (the parents) were happy to have us out of the house,” he said.
Other than the Boys Club, a local parking lot provided the stage for many a wiffle ball classics and two-hand touch football games. McClarnon said his pals “knew where to go and when to be there.”
“We used to always have these wiffle balls wrapped in electrical tape so they could go farther. As we got older, we used tennis balls. Most of us were right-handed, so there were quite a few foul balls that landed on the library,” McClarnon said. “When you had a heavy rain, those tennis balls would come down the drain spout. Sometimes there’d be eight to 10 balls that came down after a heavy rain and we’d put them back in play immediately. It was just a blast.”
McClarnon – whose son, Joseph, scored four goals and had five assists for the sectional-champion G-C boys soccer team in 2011 – played baseball through his high school days at Greenfield-Central while also strapping on football pads during his freshman year. In addition to his father, Andrews and Elmore, McClarnon credited Joe Adams, Ken Brooks, Mike O’Neal, Gary Slunaker and Steve Weaver for being positive influences on him during his youth.
“All of the guys and many more helped shape my life,” he said. “More than anything, they helped me learn about what it means to be on a team and what it means to be a part of something bigger than myself. They kept it fun and didn’t take it too seriously.”
Member of Greenfield Board of Works and Public Safety/City Securities Account Executive
Education: Greenfield-Central High School; Indiana University (Undergraduate)
Family: Wife, Tracy; son, Joseph (Sophomore at Indiana University)