Volume II

A History of The HoHoKam of Mesa

Volume II


At the end of A Historv of the HoHoKam of Mesa, which we will now call “Volume I”, I stated that “A whole new era had dawned.” It is impossible to believe that 14 spring training seasons have gone past us since that new dawning!” Over those 14 seasons, it has occurred to me several times that this history has needed freshening. And I’ve vowed to start this freshening after lunch – – tomorrow. This luxurious procrastination has now come to an end, thanks to Bud Page, the current Big Ho.  Bud has threatened that if I don’t renew this history, he wouId see to it that I am permanently assigned to the Clean-Up Committee. Now every HoHo knows that the Clean-Up Committee (“CUC”) is the home of every rookie and yearling member. In fact, a new member is a member of the CUC until he/she is relieved of that duty. A 24-year member who is a Past Big Ho has no business being assigned to the CUC. It’s an outrage, and it scares the hell out of me. Therefore, here we go!

Chapter 1 – – 1492-1967

From the very beginning until the end of the 1996 spring training season, the running of the HoHoKam organization was on a “pressing need” basis. That is to say, if there weren’t items which were of immediate importance, they were not dealt with. On occasion an impromptu meeting of the Board might take place at the weekly meeting of the Mesa Rotary Club, if necessary.

As each new season approached, the Board and officers would. get more active, but, as was noted in the Introduction to Volume I, “Each member knows what job is to be done, when it is to be done, and how to do it.” In other words, it terms of the old farm adage: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Even when the spring training venue moved from Rendezvous to HoHoKam Park I, and a whole host of new HoHo’s were needed, the training of these rookies was done on the fly. There was no planning needed or applied. It just got done.

All of this changed in April of 1996.

Chapter 2 – – 1996-2000

Before the 1996 season, Bob Kernagis was elected Big Ho. Bob is a big, strapping lad who is a natural born leader. He presided over the last season in HoHoKam Park I, the removal of the organizations belonging from that facility, the addition of a total of 29 new members (13 in 1996 and 16 in 1997), the planning for the scoreboard, the tenant improvements of the HoHoKam room in HoHoKam Park II, the move in and the first pitch.

The scoreboard in HoHoKam Park I had been a simple score, balls, strikes and outs affair. It was operated by a HoHo who was seated in an open-air press box, at the top of the grandstand behind home plate. The new scoreboard contained all the above and was operated by a HoHo was seated in a closed press box at the top of the grandstand, and that is where the similarity ended. The new version also included an information galaxy and a “diamond vision” screen, as well as several panels of advertising, for reasons that are lost in the mists of time, the City of Mesa allowed the HoHoKam to contract for, own and build this scoreboard. Therefore, it became a revenue source for the organization. It was the best, brightest, and closest to the state-of-the-art scoreboard located in the East Valley, including ASU!

Kernagis presided over the first season in the new stadium, and likely would have enjoyed presiding over one or more additional seasons. However, this was not to be, and at the end of the 1997 season, Ken Lenhart, the proprietor of Lenhart’s Hardware was elected Big Ho.

Ken’s two seasons as Big Ho were highlighted by a whole lot of rain, the deaths of several of our older members, and the budding of a very unpleasant relationship between the HoHo’s and the stadium concessionaire. The rain taught us that parking cars on flooded soccer fields was impossible. But the games went on, and we had to find places to park the cars of our paying customers. For several games during these two seasons, we directed these customers to park their cars on the surface lot at the corner of University and Center. We provided a tram to transport these fans from the lot to the stadium. When space in the lot ran out, we parked cars on each side of Center Street in front of the stadium. This reduced the flow of through traffic to one lane in each direction. The level of cooperation among the Mesa Police Department, Mesa Parks, and Recreation and the HoHo’s was tremendous. The rainy-day woes were many, but we managed to muddle through!

The spirit of cooperation did not, however, extend to our relationship with the concessionaire. The contract between the City and the concessionaire called for an absolute exclusive right to sell product within the park for a period of 10 years. In the opinion of the concessionaire, this right ranged from hot dogs to bottled water, and from baseball caps to baby food. The fact that the concessionaire did not offer certain items for sale within the park did not alter their interpretation of the concept of “exclusive”. At one point a grudging agreement was reached in which items of food  or drink  not  offered  by the concessionaire could be offered, but a percentage of the revenues had to be paid over to them. It was a maddening state of affairs which cast the HoHoKam in an impossible light, and detracted from the fan experience, which was (and is) the entire thrust of our organization’s efforts. When Ken’s two seasons as Big Ho were over, he was thoroughly frustrated, and more than willing to pass the baton to Phil Kellis.

Chapter 3 – – 2000-2001

Phil came into the Big Ho position with a number of goals and ideas in mind. He wanted to attempt to cooperate with the concessionaire, to improve the relationship between the HoHo’s and the City and to make changes within our organization which might make for a more cohesive spirit among the members. No issue facing the organization was greater than a growing problem that was caused by our single gender membership.

Since the inception of the HoHoKam, membership in the organization had been limited to males. Regardless of the reasons for this segregation, the feelings on either side of the issue were strong and divisive. Those who felt strongest that the organization should stay segregated saw no advantage to having women as members. In addition, they foresaw the potential for suspicion between our members and their wives. Those who were on the opposite side of the matter felt that women would add an untapped element to the organization having to do with creativity and even civility.

Most importantly, there was strong pressure from the City to integrate to the extent that a not- so-veiled threat was issued that the contract between the parties would be declared void should integration of the genders not take place – – and damned quickly!

Now Phil should never be characterized as devious, but he is certainly clever. He appointed a committee consisting of influential members from each side and charged them with forming a plan to solve this problem. The plan that came out of the committee amounted to a stroke of genius. Ann Patterson Cleghorn {daughter of founder Dwight Patterson), Jeanne Hubler (daughter of HoHo Hub Hubler) and Dr. Shanlyn Newman (daughter of HoHo Dr. Dick Newman) were nominated for membership. The suspicion argument went out the window, and the HoHoKam became an integrated organization by near-unanimous consent. In later years, Sherrie Nielson Cocker (daughter of HoHo Karl Nielson) and Kathi Santoni (daughter of late HoHo Bob Neill) were elected to membership. Dispensing with this issue solved a vast array of issues between the organization and the City.

The issues between the concessionaire and the City and the HoHoKams grew a little bit less fractious. Unopened bottles of water, for example, were allowed into the stadium. But there was still a mighty gulf between the parties which remained until the last day of the contract several years later.

Having faced much and accomplishing a lot, Phil passed the Big Ho’s bola tie over to Tom Rhodes at the end of 2001.

Chapter 4 – – 2002-2006

Life as Big Ho might have been downright uncomplicated for Tom Rhodes had it not been for the events of September 11, 2001. When terrorists flew hijacked airliners into the twin towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington and an empty field in western Pennsylvania, life in America changed. Professional baseball was not spared by these changes, and neither was spring training at HoHoKam Park. Major League Baseball handed down a number of edicts with regard to what could and could not be brought into the various stadia around the leagues. A very strident Director of Public Relations for the Cubs saw to it that each of these edicts were carried out to the letter – – and beyond.

One of the edicts was that no umbrellas would be allowed inside the stadium. Starting with the first game of the 2002 spring training season, the HoHoKams became an umbrella confiscating agency. Once again, the image of the organization took a hit. No matter how careful the gate personnel were, someone’s umbrella invariably went home with someone else. It was a nightmare.

The third home game of the season, Rhodes went to the press box to watch the National Anthem and the first pitch. When the game began, the skies looked very, very threatening. With the second pitch of the game, the heavens opened, and the rain poured down. Around the grandstand, hundreds (perhaps thousands) of unconfiscated umbrellas same out, thus proving exactly how effective the no-umbrella edict really was.

In November of 2002, the HoHoKam unveiled the first annual HoHoKam Golf Classic. The thrust of this event was to attract golfers from surrounding communities to enjoy the beauty and challenge of the Mesa Country Club. The organization was largely unaware of the right and wrong ways to run an event of this type, but even so, it was hugely successful. Among the reasons for this success were the efforts of the Board of the HoHoKam, together with the expertise of Darryl Toupkin, who was the public relations consultant with whom the HoHo’s had worked for the last several seasons. But the most significant factor in the first event, as well as the several events that would follow in succeeding years, was the patronage of Western Block Corporation, through the efforts of Past Big Ho John O’NeiII.

In the spring of 2002, after the season, Big Ho Rhodes was notified by the State of Arizona that the HoHoKam organization had ceased to exist because of its failure to file its annual report with the Corporation Commission. Rhodes and the Board jumped through the hoops necessary to remedy this problem, and then decided that the days when the organization could be operated as an afterthought were over. It was clear that an administrator for the organization was a necessity, rather than a luxury. Nancy Hunter had been the manager of the HoHoKam Park ticket office for several years, and she was the logical candidate to fill this job.

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