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Anderson High School's baseball field will now be 'Willie Wells Field'

Austin ISD's board approved the renaming Thursday night, but the idea has been years in the making and was jumpstarted by a KVUE story in the summer of 2020.

AUSTIN, Texas — An Austin native and Hall of Fame baseball player is finally getting some much-deserved recognition from his hometown.

On Thursday night, the Austin ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved the renaming of the Anderson High School baseball field as the "Willie Wells Field."

Wells was a legendary baseball player in the 1920s and 1930s and graduated from the original LC Anderson High School in 1923.

"I think it's a great story for baseball in Austin," said Kenny Matthews, the head baseball coach at Anderson. "Somebody of this caliber to be honored at the school at which he graduated, it's bringing two communities together and, at the same time, putting a lot of emphasis on what this guy was able to accomplish."

A KVUE story in the summer of 2020 that documented how Austin had lost touch with its connection to Wells spurred the Anderson Alumni Club into action.

Wells had a decorated career in the Negro Leagues. He made eight All-Star appearances, taught Jackie Robinson how to turn a double play and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cuba, Mexico and the U.S.

"When you learn the history of baseball, he's one of those names that doesn't get mentioned, but it seems like he's intertwined in all of it," Matthews said.

His induction into the pro baseball Hall of Fame, however, didn't come until well after his death and much of the underappreciation for Wells is due to the fact that he never played Major League Baseball.

By the time Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, Wells was past his peak. He would retire shortly after and remain outside the conscience of most of baseball and most of his hometown.

Anderson High School wanted to help change that and made it a mission to honor Wells.

"It's incredibly shocking, borderline upsetting, that you have somebody of this caliber, of this ability, that's regarded in the history of baseball that for the wrong reasons isn't known by most people as you think he should [be]," Matthews said. "I think it's great that we're maybe able to take the right step in helping him become the figure that he needs to be."

Anderson High School held an official ceremony for the renaming on Saturday, Feb. 5. KVUE's Jake García spoke at the event, alongside the president of the Negro League Baseball Museum, Bob Kendrick.

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