HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – From creating the Hot Springs Baseball trail to his latest project the Majestic Park Baseball Complex, Mike Dugan kept the history of the game alive in the Spa City.
Just as the Majestic Park contruction got underway, Dugan was diagnosed with brain cancer. He died Thursday, less than a month after his diagnosis.
Take a trip back in time more than 100 years, some of the baseball greats were walking down Central Avenue or taking a dip at the batthouses.
In 2020, those historic moments from champions on the field are kept alive by a champion off of it, Mike Dugan.
“He was the one that really came up with the idea and the information that Hot Springs was really the first spot for Spring Training in the nation,” Dugan’s childhood friend Sam Stathakis said.
Stathakis grew up with Dugan in Hot Springs and they even worked together as adults.
“As long as I’ve known him he loved baseball,” Stathakis said.
He said that love is the reason behind the more than 30 green markers detailing America’s pastime in the Spa City.
“He found where Babe Ruth hit the longest home run in history on a park down in Whittington Park,” Stathakis said.
“Mike Dugan is the baseball history of Hot Springs,” Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison said.
Arrison said Dugan researched every player and team that came down south for spring training and created the famous Hot Springs Baseball Trail.
“God he was like an encyclopedia of history for Hot Springs. How do you replace somebody like that,” Arrison said.
Even after Dugan hit that project out of the park, he wanted to step up to the plate for a new one.
“Getting kids a venue to go play baseball,” Stathakis said.
After the Boys and Girls Club closed, he went to bat to turn the space into the Majestic Park Baseball Complex.
“He was out there holding a sign everyday during the election, during early voting when people would pull up he would be there, he was there when the votes were counted,” Arrison said.
From the election to the building plans, Dugan rounded all the bases but he won’t make it to home plate. Just as construction began, he was diagnosed with brain cancer.
“He wasn’t going to just lay down and give up,” Stathakis said.Dugan decided to have surgery to buy some extra time.
“Not only for his family and his friends but to complete some projects that he’s been working on like the Majestic Park,” Stathakis said.
Less than a month after his diagnosis, he passed away.
“I’m still kind of shocked about it actually,” Stathakis said.
As the fields start to take shape at Majestic Park, the talk is how to honor some of the legends of the game.
“Which now he is one of them as far as we’re concerned,”
Mike Dugan is not just part of that list, he is at the very top.
“I can see him smiling right now,” Stathakis said.
Arrison said they are still working out exactly how to Dugan will be honored at Majestic Park.