James "Mr. Benny" Roberts Sports Park
James Bentley Roberts
The first "Little League" baseball field was established at this popular city park in 1956. Over the years, the park has grown to include five lighted fields, a playground for children, two covered picnic pavilions, public restrooms, a batting cage and two concession stands.
In 2007 the name was changed from Tenth Street Forest Park in honor of "Mr. Benny" Roberts, the man perhaps most instrumentional in assuring this recreational facility was made available for the children and youth of Port St. Joe.
was born August 11, 1935 in Altha, Florida and moved to Port St. Joe in 1943.
As a child, Benny walked to school from Hunter Circle down Tenth Street when it was just a clay road. At that time, the present ballpark site that he walked past every day was nothing but woods and a swamp. He attended Port St. Joe Schools and Georgia Military College where he participated in basketball, football and band. While at GMC he was their band captain and drum major.
After marrying his high school sweetheart, Ann Kenney, he served in the US Army for three years. Benny and Ann returned to Port St. Joe to live and raise their family. Having a daughter, Sarah Ann, and two sons, Jim and Thomas, he became very interested and involved in various sports programs, especially little league.
In 1956 the first ballfield was established on Tenth Street. Several years later an additional field was built. Separated by the big ditch, the fields were known as the National and American League Fields respectively.
In 1971, "Mr. Benny" was elected to serve on the Port St. Joe City Commission and was given the responsibility of overseeing the parks and recreational facilities. For safety reasons, one of the first things on his agenda was to install stormwater pipe and cover the open ditch separating the fields. A second priority was to enlarge one of the fields to accommodate the older boys in the pony league - lights and all. "Mr. Benny" continued his efforts and constructed the third and fourth fields for minor league teams across Tenth Street.
From 1965 -1990, at the peak of participation, in one year alone there were as many as 17 teams in the boys' programs involving 250 - 300 children. Additional programs for girls' softball were coming to the forefront in these years and continue to be a driving force in our community. "Mr. Benny" also served as grounds-keeper, coach, player agent, board member, and league president for Port St. Joe league during these years.
From 1990 - 1997 Mr. Roberts worked as the Recreation Director for the city, maintaining fields, organizing various sports activities, and tournaments. By 1993 two concession stands and a fifth field had been constructed on 10th Street to complete the park.
"Mr. Benny" loves kids and has always felt that sports activities play a very important role in building not only athletic skills and physical development but character as well.
Although not as active today on the little league fields as in the past, you will still find Mr. Benny very much involved with the youth and citizens of our community. Whether substituting or pulling the chain for a PSJ Middle School Football game, cooking hamburgers, chickens, or ribs, he continues to be a motivating force. "Mr. Benny", kids, and ballparks just go together!
Realizing that nothing is accomplished without help, "Mr. Benny" gratefully acknowledges the numerous individuals, who through the years, have given of their time, effort, and resources to make the youth baseball and softball programs the success they are today.
Follow the links below for photos of each park and trail in the system.