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After more than 30 years in the Electric City, Centene Stadium is saying goodbye to two of its biggest fans, Jim and Keith Eaklund.
The father-son duo has been coming to games since the 1970s, and Jim has been in charge of the history room ever since he moved to Great Falls. Hailey Sutton explains the legacy they leave behind.
Jim and Keith Eaklund are no strangers to the ball park; you can find them at nearly every Voyagers game, cheering on the Great Falls team from the stands.
But, the time has come for the duo to head west.
"We're moving to Portland," Jim said. "I'm 88 years old, and my oldest son in Portland, Dr. Eaklund, has been pushing me to move over there because of my age and stuff, and so finally I made the decision."
Jim is more than just a Voyagers “superfan.” He's the creator and former manager of the Logan Hurbert History Room on the third floor of Centene Stadium.
He started collecting memorabilia in the 1980's, and has gathered enough to keep visitors busy for hours on end.
"I could probably fill a room twice or three times that size with all the information and stuff that I have," he said.
While some may find it to be over the top, Voyagers General Manager Scott Reasoner said it adds to the experience of minor league baseball.
"I mean, Jim is everything to this ball park," Reasoner said. "He's been here for so long, I always tell people he's like our living memory. I mean, it's just tremendous dedication from a volunteer that you don't see anywhere else, and it's something we're proud of in Great Falls, so whenever a new player or employee comes out here, the first thing they learn is the rich tradition of baseball in Great Falls."
As for Jim's son Keith, well he's also a familiar face in the community. He's been the floor manager of the McDonald’s on 10th Avenue North for 34 years.
Last week, the fast food joint held a party in his honor. It was a bittersweet moment for the veteran employee.
"How am I feeling? Part of me wants to stay, and part of me wants to go. I will miss everybody here, but I'm not gonna miss the 30 below zero weather," Keith said, with a laugh.
Despite those bitter cold days, the Electric City still holds a special place in their hearts, and they leave behind big seats to fill.
"Working out at the ball park with the Voyagers. Constantly going down to the library and going through the microfilm and looking for some information. That will be the thing that I'll miss," Jim said.
"Baseball games, and the Great Falls Voyagers," Keith added. "We started in 1974, when we got tickets and after that we got involved in the games, and it’s fun."
The move won’t be easy for the ballpark, either.
"Oh my gosh, it'll definitely be emotional," Reasoner added. "We'll keep up the history room, and keep everything going in his memory and in his honor. You know it's just something that we're very grateful for."
Jim said he’s looking forward to retirement, and not having to ever shovel snow or mow the lawn ever again. Meanwhile, Keith will be transferring to a local McDonald’s to continue his work as a floor manager.
Both plan to attend games at the local minor league baseball affiliate, the Hillsboro Hops.