Joe Hutchinson, a wonderful friend of the Anna Maria Island Community Center, first visited Anna Maria Island with his family when his father was spring training in Florida with the Tigers many, many years ago. Thanks to his family’s love of the island during his youth, Joe grew his roots in the sand on AMI and his love for The Center grew too.
“The center has always had a special place in my heart,” wrote Hutchinson. Joe’s first memories of the island community center are of cleaning the baseball field. His baseball roots come from his father, Fred “Big Bear” Hutchinson. We can all thank Big Bear for bringing Joe to The Center.
For Joe, the sense of community that is the lifeblood of The Center is engrained in his memories as a youth. He notes, “It was always a community effort to get the center and ball fields ready for the island kids. Everyone pitched in.” For the countless volunteers over the many years, getting The Center ready for the kids is a labor of love that Joe recalls fondly and continues today. It is not work, it is a passion.
As a labor of love, Joe remembers baseball players working side-by-side with block masons, carpenters, store keepers, doctors, and many other individuals working together to make the island’s center the core of the community.
By brining his family to AMI, Joe’s father laid the groundwork for another generation of Hutchinsons to enjoy and love the island and the community center. Joey, Joe’s son, started playing sports at The Center, like so many children today. While playing baseball, basketball and soccer, Joey made lifelong friends. Joe nostalgically wrote how his son made “…memories that will last forever.”
While so many of the island’s kids will enjoy The Center for fun and will make many friends, some will go on in life to take what they learned on the island to the next level. Joey’s experiences at the island’s community center prepared him to play sports away from The Center, eventually playing Division I soccer at the University of South Carolina.
Joe confidently and proudly proclaims that the kids that played sports or participated at The Center have fond memories for life.