There is just something about a ballpark, especially at night — the way the lights stream through the cool air, the crack of the bat as the first pitch is hit, the cheers of the winning team from the dugout. It’s magic, pure and simple.
After nearly 40 years, summer nights in Erda are filled with magic at the Allen B. Warr Memorial Park, and it all started with a dream.
Long before Ray Kinsella even thought of cutting out a ball diamond in his Iowa cornfield, Norman Warr had a dream of his own. He would build his own field of dreams right here in Erda.
Norman grew up playing baseball and loved playing softball with the men at the church ball diamond in Erda. But in 1974, the LDS church in Erda needed to expand the size of its building. Consequently, the church would utilize the land where its ballpark had been located. It was then that Norman decided it was time to build his field of dreams, his own softball park.
It was with the help of his sister, Irene Warr, a lawyer by trade, that Norman set out to build the ballpark. The land, an open hay field, had been contributed by their father, Allen B. Warr. Irene created a foundation to run the park. The foundation was named in honor of their father, Allen B. Warr, for whom the park is named after.
Similar to the movie, “Field of Dreams,” Norman cut the ballpark out of his father’s hay field and grass was planted. Lights and bleachers were brought in, and the following year, the Hamburger House and restrooms were added.
“It was his dream to have a ballpark here,” said Norman’s daughter Diane Judd of Erda. “He wanted somewhere for the men to play softball. It was his very own field of dreams.”
Today Ty Judd, Norman’s grandson, son of Terry and Diane Judd, runs the park and has since 2004 when his Uncle Tom past away. Before that, Ty said he and Tom ran the ballpark together after his Grandpa Norman died in 1999.
Up until 2006, it was just the men that played softball at the ballpark, but Ty said all the wives wanted to play too. It was then that Ty changed the summer leagues to coed and today has 14 coed teams in his summer league, the maximum number of teams he said he’ll take on.
Every Tuesday and Thursday night throughout the summer, games are played and Erda burgers are served.
Norman may have built the ballpark, but it was his wife, Emma, who made the burgers, and she made them famous. Emma, also known as “The Erda Burger Lady,” had been cooking her burgers even before the ballpark opened. Diane said her mother cooked burgers over at the church ball diamond and kept on doing it once the Hamburger House was built at the park.
The Erda Burger is what makes a night at the ball park complete. Warr Memorial is home of the famous Erda Burger that Emma perfected with a special concoction known to fellow park-goers as the “secret sauce.” Even today, it’s the secret sauce that makes those Erda Burgers so special. Emma worked in the Hamburger House as long as she could. Diane said she finally had to tell her mom she couldn’t work anymore once her eyes were failing her due to the macular degeneration she experienced.
“Even after my dad died, my mom still worked at the ballpark,” Diane said. “She worked until I told her she couldn’t cook hamburgers anymore. It was hard to tell her, but we had to. Mom was still there every night, she loved to visit. She loved to see all the people come.”
Diane worked alongside her mother in the Hamburger House for years and added her own contribution to the ball park — the Erda Brownie. Her recipe is still used today and is another ball park staple.
Today, Diane’s daughter, Tori England, runs the Hamburger House with the help of many others, including her own children, the fourth generation to carry on the tradition of summers at the park. All four of Tori’s children can be found helping out at the Hamburger House and ballpark, from nine-year-old Sydney to sixteen-year-old Steffen. They all pitch in to make things work.
This year, many of the responsibilities have shifted to the next generation of family members. Tori’s son, fourteen-year-old Josh, began working with his Uncle Ty to maintain the ball field, cutting and watering the grass each week.
Her daughter, thirteen-year-old Bri, has perfected her Grandma Diane’s brownie recipe and bakes pan after pan of Erda brownies each week to sell at the Hamburger House.
“I make about six pans of brownies each week, and man, it’s a lot of work and responsibility,” Bri said.
For Diane, her children and grandchildren, summer means softball. Diane said the park really is all about family and has been a huge part of their lives. She remembers bringing her son Ty into the Hamburger House in his baby carrier, putting him on the table and going to work. For their family, the ballpark is just in their blood.
“I love coming to the ballpark and seeing the families enjoying a night at the ballpark,” said Ty. “It’s fun to see the little kids running around and everyone having a great time.”
The park is not only used for coed softball leagues, but also in Spring and Fall there are baseball and football teams that use the field for practices. The Stealth Baseball team of Stansbury Park is proud to call the park their home and has practiced there for several years. To honor the program, Ty had a banner made that hangs on the outfield fence — Normie Warr Field, Home of Erda Softball and Stealth Baseball.
Warr Memorial isn’t just for ball games or practices; Diane said many church activities are held there as well as reunions and even weddings. Over the years, they have held three weddings at the park, one of which was for Diane’s own daughter, Tori.
Each year, the events at the ballpark keep getting bigger and bigger, although Diane said the biggest event that takes place at the ballpark is the annual Erda Days celebration. Bringing the community together was a goal of Norman and Emma’s when the ballpark was originally built and something the family continues to do today.
On Aug. 9, Ty sponsored an all-nighter tournament. He said he had nine teams not only from Tooele County, but also several Salt Lake-area teams participate. They started playing games Friday night at 7 p.m. and kept on playing until Saturday morning at 9 a.m.
Diane recalled how busy the park was that night: “It was packed at the All-nighter. I told Ty that it was Normie’s birthday and how thrilled he would be to see this. How excited he would be to see all the people enjoying the field.”
Debby Coleman, who started helping out at the ballpark back in 1979 and has been back off and on since, has kept score there for the last 15 years. Coleman said what she loves most about the ballpark is that after all these years everything there is still the same.
“Nothing has changed in the all the years I have been coming here. Everything is still the same. The burgers are the same. The brownies are the same. Even the people are still the same,” Coleman said.
When asked why he keeps doing this year after year, Ty simply stated, “I do it because of Grandma and Grandpa. I do it for them. I do it for family.”
And he said he will keep doing it as long as he can and already sees himself passing on the ballpark to his nephew Josh someday. Who knows, maybe in another 40 years the ballpark will still be there, still serving those same burgers and brownies everyone loves.