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Story Behind the Name: Canar Field

If you're raising some young baseball players, or just have a love of the game, you probably know Canar Field at the Niwot Youth Sports complex known as Hangge Fields at Monarch Park. It's the largest of the six fields, often used for "senior" players between 13 and 15 years old.

Jason Canar of Longmont remembers when Canar Field was christened back in 1986, and the field still holds great meaning for him. "I'm incredibly proud, just to have it have that name," he said.

Canar Field wasn't named for Jason, but for his father, Jim Canar, a devoted youth baseball coach for the Gunbarrel Lefthand Valley Recreation Association, forerunner to Niwot Youth Sports.

"No one would ever speak ill of him," Jason said. "He was a really good person who cared about the community."

His family and those who remember him say that Jim Canar especially cared about kids, and seemed to believe boys and baseball belonged together. He would canvas neighborhood kids in the Brigadoon Glen subdivision where the family lived, eager to add new names to the team roster.

"He was always asking 'how come he's not playing?,'" Jason laughed. "He would never turn a kid down. Countless kids recall time with him."

Jim started coaching because his son played baseball, but Jim's wife, now Karen Simpson, said he had a gift. "He definitely loved kids. He really had a good heart for coaching kids."

"He always encouraged us to play sports," recalled Jim's oldest daughter, Terri Canar Humprey of Longmont. "And not just the basketball or baseball kind of sports – skiing, and believe it or not, I was a part of the original 'skip-its,' the jump rope team. Coach Cendali was my PE teacher in elementary school in Boulder. And my father was the one that encouraged me to be a part of this until we moved to Longmont. I think he taught us how we could balance sports and life. He was able to do it and encouraged others to do it."

Jim Canar seemed to have a good heart in general. He sat on the board of Attention Homes, a nonprofit in Boulder dedicated to ending youth homelessness. Shortly after the Vietnam War ended, Jim worked through his church to help resettle a Vietnamese family. The family would come to the Canar home for Christmas, and the Canar kids were taught to forgo some presents so their Vietnamese friends would have some.

While Jim was giving back to his community, he was earning a reputation as a "very, very hard worker," said his daughter, Deb Sammons of Longmont. Jim never got a college degree, but reached second-level management at IBM.

"He was a great guy who would do anything in the world for you," said Sammons. "We often talk about how different our lives would be if he was still around."

In 1979, Sammons was 15, Jason was 9, and Humphrey was 16. Jim, who loved the outdoors, was looking forward to a hunting trip with three friends. Jim would be the driver.

The foursome headed west toward Rifle. Accounts differ on the exact details, but as Jim drove around a blind curve, in the oncoming lane was a wide load with a protrusion jutting into Jim's lane. There was no time to react. The protrusion ripped into the driver's side of Jim's car. He was killed instantly. His three passengers were injured, but survived.

Jason couldn't describe what that news was like for a 9-year-old boy. "There's a time I can't remember. I was mentally in another place."

"It was a hard time, a bad time for our whole family," Sammons, said. "We did for a while just go through the motions. Just get through it."

When the accident happened, Karen Simpson was a stay-at-home mom. "I didn't know what I was going to do," she said. Simpson had worked part-time in the past, but Jim was always the provider.

"We had to change our lives at the time," Sammons said.

The Canar family clearly remembers one thing about that terrible time, and that was the wellspring of support from their community.

"After he passed... I attribute it to the relationships he had." Jason remembered. "Some of those IBM relationships. That group took me in. That athletic family we were part of helped. They'd call and get us involved."

IBM offered Simpson a job, which she immediately accepted. "I ended up working at IBM for 23 years." Sammons and her sister also got jobs to help out.

When Jim died and the community offered donations, the Canar family designated GLVRA as their favored beneficiary. The organization was searching for permanent ballfields as all games were played on borrowed land, waiting for development.

"Before then, every field we had was borrowed," explained Biff Warren, who coached baseball in GLVRA at the same time as Jim Canar and also knew him through church. In 1984 an area developer donated land for new ball fields as part of negotiations with Boulder County, and the money donated on behalf of the Canar family was used to build Canar Field.

Jason Canar can picture the day he first saw the sign that read "Canar Field."

"It was crazy," he said. "My daughter, who's 28 now, we went out to the field. I had her climb up the fence and took a picture of her with it."

"It was just so honoring," added Deb Sammons. "That is just one huge special thing, just for people to remember his love of the game and the love of being a coach. Hopefully they'll remember he was always a great guy in that way."

The Canars remain tight with many of Jim's friends and their families-the people who helped them through their grief. And Jim's legacy in the world of baseball continues. Two of Jason's three sons play baseball in college, and the youngest son started as a sophomore forthe Skyline High School baseball team last year. Jason cherishes those days on the field with his dad.

"It's hard because of the short time," he explained. "I fully believe right now he'd be involved in all that stuff. Even if I didn't have boys, I think he would've kept on with that."

Deb Sammons agreed, "His passion and love for sport ... for being the coach. And my brother's coach, and love of the game. I remember more baseball than anything."


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