BURBANK — Three of the four softball fields at George Izay Park in Burbank were packed with early Saturday morning games, except for one.
Diamond No. 2 at the Izay Park, also known as Bill Burton Field, took a timeout from the action to recognize four men, who've spent a large portion of their lives coaching Burbank's youth, during the 2011 Burbank Athletics Walk of Fame induction ceremony.
The Walk of Fame, which was established in 2004, is designed to honor the value of sports and athletic activities in the Burbank community. The number of names in the Walk of Fame grew to 50 Saturday, as Russ Burton, Ron Gobble, Rick Rossiter and Rick Williams each had their names etched into their own brick, which sits just in front Bill Burton Field.
"They are the real sports heroes who impacted many lives and have done a great service to our community," Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes said during the ceremony. "Our sports programs here in Burbank are second to none thanks to people like them."
Each October, the Burbank Park, Recreation and Community Services Department recognizes new athletes, coaches, volunteers or staff members who have shown dedication to the department by adding them to the Walk of Fame.
Michael DePalo, the chair of Burbank's Park, Recreation and Community Services Board and former Walk of Fame inductee, lauded what all four individuals had contributed to the youth of their city.
"You have enriched the lives of so many," DePalo said. "Burbank is such a great place to live and raise a family because of people like you."
Three of the four inductees started out coaching someone in their family. Little did they know they'd continue coaching long after their family members had grown into adults.
Gobble, for one, said he had no idea his one-year commitment to coach his nephew in the Burbank Hap minor Baseball program in 1984 would transform into a 22-year career.
"It became a lifelong thing," said Gobble, who coached four different sports in his 22 years — baseball, basketball, softball and flag football. "It went from one thing to the next."
By the end of it, his family had grown.
"I just couldn't say no to the kids," said Gobble, a Glendale native and Glendale High graduate. "I enjoyed working with the kids and that's what kept me coming back. They became family."
Ross Burton stood in the shadow of his brother Bill's field as he was inducted. The Burbank native grew up playing baseball in the city and competed in the first youth baseball program Burbank had in 1944, at the age of 15.
For the next 67 years, Ross remained involved in Burbank sports as a coach, manager or player — as he played at Burbank High and later at Glendale Community College. He was also a member and mananger of several Burbank city teams, including the Bluebirds — one of Burbank's founding senior league softball teams.
Rossiter's coaching career began with his son's T-ball team in 1973. He went on to spend 30 years in Burbank sports — coaching, managing or playing in the men's softball program — and has been involved with more than 45 teams, while also coaching all three of his children in softball, baseball, football and basketball.
Williams'introduction to coaching mirrors Rossiter's. He began coaching his 6-year old's T-ball team after moving to Burbank from Salt Lake City in the 1980s. For the past 23 years, he's continued coaching teams. There have been 12 years in his career where he coached multiple teams, including one year when he ran four.
"My biggest thing was making sure the kids had an opportunity to play," Williams said. "I thought it wasn't fair for any kids to be unable to play a sport they wanted. That's why I started coaching multiple teams."