DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — When you say Coco Gauff’s name in Delray Beach, everyone thinks tennis.
But at the Pompey Park baseball field, everyone’s talking about her grandfather, Eddie “Red” Odom.
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His efforts made a name for himself and the Delray Beach American Little League.
Odom has the same passion for baseball today that he had years ago when he played for Carver High School in Delray Beach.
“In a way, it’s given me happiness. You can be broke, you can be mad, you can be all the worst things in the world. But when you go to that ballpark, you don’t think about any of that,” explains Odom.
His love of sports passed through the generations to his granddaughter. Lots of people see it, including Odom’s longtime friend, Reggie Dobar Sr.
“Just her tenacity, she believes she’s gonna win. Red was a winner. Yvonne was a winner,” says Dobar.
After graduating, Odom played football at Bethune-Cookman University before dedicating himself to baseball.
He played for several winter and minor league baseball teams before eventually returning to Delray Beach with a mission.
"He’s been a pillar of our community, and he’s helped a lot of kids get into baseball," said Dobar.
He created a Little League for black kids in 1970 to play organized baseball, an opportunity that was limited because of segregation.
There was a preexisting Little League baseball team within the city, but its charter specifically excluded the black community near Swinton Avenue, Lake Ida Road and the railroad tracks.
“We had all our stuff over here on our side of town, and they had all the stuff on their side of town,” recalls Dobar.
Odom explains he worked within the system while playing it at the same time.
“Everyone who knew me on both sides of the track, they understand I love baseball,” said Odom.
As a Parks and Recreation employee, he remembers getting help from Delray Beach city leaders after hours and equipment donations from the white community.
“Everybody was donating everything long as we didn’t bother them. OK, as long as we stayed over here it wasn’t no problem so we had uniforms and baseballs and all that stuff,” Odom said.
He’s helped thousands of kids learn America's past time regardless of their color.
Odom says the road hasn’t been easy but, “We are still standing. That’s the key as long as I was around, we will have baseball.”
Odom and the Delray Beach American Little League will he holding a special season opening ceremony next month to celebrate 50 years of baseball.