Frank Esquibel made Kingman better
While he was not inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and he did not hold any world records, Frank Esquibel was a hero of Kingman's Little League baseball.
When he died on July 17 at the age of 88, Esquibel left behind a grand legacy for his family and the community he loved.
Esquibel moved to Kingman when he was very young. While his father went to work for Central Commercial, young Esquibel went to the Little Red School House.
He played many sports in high school, lettering in football, basketball and track. But the sport he played never mattered, his son Fermin Esquibel said, as long as he got to play.
Having grown up in Kingman, Esquibel noticed that there was a lack of activities in town for the youth in the community. He wanted to create something that would keep children (especially his own) off the streets and out of trouble.
So, in the early part of the 1950s, Esquibel met with four friends to start up the Kingman Little League. At its inception, there were four teams, one always coached by Esquibel. It was hard for the baseball founder to not be able to coach his own sons, especially when his sons' teams always beat his.
Throughout the years, Esquibel served in just about every capacity imaginable with the Little League. He was president, manager, coach, umpire and so much more, Fermin said.
At the end of the '50s, Esquibel started looking for a permanent place for the teams to play and practice. He soon talked the railroad into donating land for the first Little League field in downtown Kingman. Years later, he managed to once again convince the railroad to donate land for a second field.
The park's construction and maintenance was done through advertising, Fermin said. Local businesses paid for ads that were placed around the park. Businesses also supported the individual teams, purchasing the uniforms and so forth.
Esquibel's desire to give local children something to do did not stop with the boys. He soon had a girls' Little League team up and running as well.
Esquibel constantly remained a part of local children's lives through Little League and the Boy Scouts. He was always available to mentor and guide, as well as coach. He wanted to make sure they stayed out of trouble.
In time, when Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City started to take off, he helped them to form their own Little Leagues. For several years, Esquibel took on the position of being District Director for the county Little League programs.
When he was nearing the end of his tenure with Little League, the governor recognized his support for Little League with a plaque, commemorating the work he unfailingly accomplished.
"This milestone in his life will reflect in this community forever. It would be difficult to enumerate the number of children who have benefited through his volunteer efforts of 32 years with Little League Baseball, finalizing his role as District Administrator of Little League Baseball," his obituary said.
Art Arredondo, one of the many coached and mentored by Esquibel, said he looked up to the man during the years he participated in Little League. He learned much more than just how to swing a bat under Esquibel's tutorage; he learned how to live a life.
"He was a doer," Arredondo said. "He didn't stand around all day talking about what needed to be done, he got right down to business."
Esquibel was well known and well liked around Kingman. He was an inspiration to many, and a hero to most.
Arredondo said he wishes that some sort of memorial could be established in Esquibel's name. Fermin agrees. It would be nice to put up a plaque at the Little League Park, or rename the park after him, to commemorate the work he did for Little League. However, this process has been slow going.
Over the years, when the railroad no longer desired to lease the fields to the Little League, the city jumped in to purchase the property and turn it into a park so the teams could continue its use, Kingman Parks and Recreation Director Darel Fruhwirth said. Southside Park remains the home of those original fields.
The city has received multiple requests to name parks, fields, picnic shelters, etc., after influential volunteers or members of the community, Fruhwirth said. All of these requests go before the City Parks and Recreation Commission for consideration. However, up until this point, it has been the commission's stand not to name places or things after people.
However, Fruhwirth said if people are wanting to revisit this issue, contact Parks and Recreation at 757-7919 to see how to get it on a commission agenda.