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Flash fields owner built it for all ages of visitors

11:37 am, Jun 29, 2011 by sspringer
By Scott Springer • sspringer@communitypress.com

He claims not to be Ray Kinsella in search of Moonlight Graham, but two years after "Field of Dreams" came out, Michael Daly had a staff hand clear a soybean field on his 80-acre property and install a ball diamond.

Nineteen years later, the ranch with the western-style sign reading "El Bethel," just east of Bethel-Tate High School on Ohio Pike, has eight fields, five with lights, batting cages, a restaurant, an arcade, a playground, a chlorinated "swimming hole" with white sand and covered seating that includes large fans and water misters. The home of the "Flash" is surrounded by a 19-acre lake.

Moonlight Graham has yet to appear, but to those who know youth baseball, Santa Claus has arrived just east of the Clermont County line. Michael Daly is an extremely successful New York Life agent who sells whole life and lifelong dreams.

An aerial view of four of the fields at the Flash Fields complex in Hamersville. Four other fields are on the premises and five of the eight total have lights. Owner Michael Daly plans as many as eight more fields on the property that's surrounded by a 19-acre lake just east of Bethel-Tate High School.

"God made man from dirt and boys like hanging out in dirt," Daly said when asked why he turned his property into what some call the center of the baseball universe east of Cincinnati.

The native of Deer Park spends the warm months in Hamersville. The Daly's spend eight to nine months in Hollywood where his wife and one of his sons are actors.

While admittedly losing money, Daly doesn't back away from flashing money on the Flash complex. In addition to the construction crew that's been on site for the last six years, he flies in Heather Patterson, a Hollywood decorator, to spruce up the ball park.

No stone is left unturned. The new restaurant has a $25,000 oven and a fancy ceiling. Outside the arcade, Patterson consults Daly on where to place new baseball statues they've purchased.

He wants everything top notch, but simple.

"I look at things differently because of my faith," Daly said. "God gave us some resources and gave us an assignment on this one. We don't serve liquor and we keep it old-fashioned with the wood on purpose."

Michael Daly is a baseball guy. He's not interested in running a "suds and softball complex." Profit is not the driving force in this endeavor.

"Originally, it was just the love of being in the dirt with your sons," Daly said. "We don't do social stuff."

Daly's dirt is different than most though. The calcified clay he has rolled onto the fields goes for about $5,000 per load. Because of that, a brief shower doesn't cancel a ballgame.

"We play when nobody else plays," Daly said.

During high school seasons, when playing conditions are suspect in the area, the Flash Fields have entertained New Richmond, Bethel-Tate and Western Brown. One of Daly's fields is for high school and college play and more are planned.

He also has youth fields with 225-foot walls (Little League World Series standard) and others for bigger kids with "homer-friendly" fences.

Daly has turned what looked like a nice place to go fishing into a youth baseball tournament mecca.

"There's Midland out here of course, but that's more focused," Daly said. "We're the east-most travel ball organization. We have about 10 to 12 tournaments a year."

The Daly's have long-term plans of doubling the amount of fields to 16. When exiting the massive property, most of the land on the left heading back to Ohio Pike is also Daly's.

His selling point is a better seat, sight view and experience for the fan and the player.

"When I built the place, I told them here's the standard, 'Grandma's here, she doesn't get out much, she can't stand the sun for hours and it's 95 degrees in July,'" Daly said. "'She's sitting up there in the shade with the misters going and it's about 80 degrees.' That's the goal."

Meantime, the grandson is playing on a professional infield with fancy dirt that dries in a heartbeat.

The skin field mud at the weedy rec center will never be the same.

"There's stuff here that you can't find anywhere else," Daly said. "It's the best training facility, not just the best place to play."

Truth be told, Daly usually concentrates more on baseball, coaching two of the Flash's nine teams. He credits his wife, Pamela, for keeping the "ball rolling."

"She originally allowed this, but then actively participated," Daly said. "She's the one that makes this thing work."

To see it work, take the Ohio Pike exit (Beechmont Ave.) off Interstate 275 and drive 18 miles until you see a lake on the right.

Send word if Mr. Graham or "Shoeless Joe" arrives.

(To see Michael Daly interviewed, or two different video tours look below)