When Ken Higdon retired, he had a dream that he was determined to fulfill—build a log cabin on a lake away from the hectic life of the big city. And just like many others who call this community home, Sandpoint fulfilled that dream. Sadly, his dream was short lived as Ken passed away unexpectedly following back surgery in January of this year. But in the short time he lived here, Ken was not the only one blessed; the people of Sandpoint were given the gift of his zest for life, his desire to share his stories and his love of community.
Ken and his wife Sabrina moved here in October of 2014. He had retired after a 32-year career in baseball, which ended with 17 years in the major leagues. He was clubhouse manager for the Los Angeles Angels the last 16 years of his career and was part of the World Series team of 2002.
It was a grueling career that Sabrina likened to being “mom for 50 adult men.” But it was a career that not only fulfilled Ken’s passion for baseball but also led him to meet the love of his life. Sabrina worked in the front office for the Angels selling sponsorships for the team. Ken’s and Sabrina’s paths occasionally crossed, and the two began to date after being acquaintances for five years. “He finally let his guard down,” said Sabrina. “He always said he’d never date someone he worked with.”
That was 10 years ago, and the two married in 2009. Sabrina continued to work while Ken enjoyed retirement and researched for the next place they would call home.
“It was a lifelong dream of his to live in a log home on a lake. He used to spend hours scouring magazines looking for the perfect log home and locations, mostly while sitting on airplanes flying from city to city with the ball club,” said Sabrina. “He was so happy when he met me, and I was happy to go along with his dream. I was even happier that he let me decorate the house. It was really a great partnership, and we had a great life together here. We didn’t have enough time together to enjoy it.”
The couple came to Sandpoint several times touring properties by boat until they found the perfect location. “Ken just loved the small-town community feel of Sandpoint,” she said, and shared that Ken had made several friends in the world of baseball over the years, but he established some of his deepest friendships in our community.
After moving to Sandpoint, they quickly made friends. Sabrina volunteered for Kinderhaven’s Festival of Trees, and the couple became involved in some activities for the Bulldog Bench booster club. “Ken liked to focus on things that involved kids,” said Sabrina.
So when Ken passed away in January and the Los Angeles Angels asked Sabrina where she would like memorials to be sent, it seemed natural for Sabrina to consider a cause that would not only embrace Ken’s love of baseball and the Sandpoint community, but would also make a difference for kids in Sandpoint.
“Ken loved what sports did for kids,” Sabrina said. Her first call was to her friend Clint Gunter. They talked about it and came up with the idea of constructing an indoor pitching and batting area at Travers Park.
“We wanted to make it something that would benefit all kids, not just those in the high school. This is something that can be used by everyone in the community, from Sandpoint Little League to dads taking their kids to the park to play ball,” said Clint.
They are currently working with the City of Sandpoint on plans and have raised approximately $4,000 thus far. Sabrina would like to eventually enclose the structure completely and hopes to keep the fundraising going.
As both Clint and Sabrina recall Ken’s life, they grow tearful talking about the man who was so full of life.
“Growing up here like I did, you at times take things for granted,” said Clint. “It is so great to see others like Ken relish the time they have here.”
Clint said he misses his close friend and loved sharing time with him and listening to his stories. On one occasion, Ken shared his World Series ring with Clint and let him try it on; it is something he will never forget.
“Here we are so far removed from major league sports,” said Clint, who added that he enjoys meeting people from all over who now call Sandpoint home. “New friends spark such cool experiences that you are not expecting. It makes our town a lot richer.”
For this year’s Little League season, Clint coached the Sandpoint team the Angels. “We wanted to be the Angels to honor Ken,” said Clint. For opening ceremonies of Little League season, Sabrina arranged for 200 Los Angeles Angels hats to be given out to the kids.
Keeping Ken’s memory alive and benefiting the families of Sandpoint is something that keeps Sabrina going, even on the toughest days. “He was a great guy who worked so hard and never took anything for granted,” said Sabrina.
As all those who knew Ken continue to grieve, Clint finds comfort in doing what he can to help raise funds for the structure to be built in Ken’s memory. “As Ken’s friend, it helps to heal and bring something for future generations to enjoy,” he said.
If you would like to make a donation, please visit SandpointLittleLeague.com and follow the link to Ken’s Memorial.