Published in March 2020
PARKER — Upon entering Double Angel Ballpark, visitors are greeted by a poignant bronze sculpture of two boys playing baseball. The art, and the entire facility, stand as a memorial for two young ballplayers, Dillon and Logan Dixey, who drowned following exposure to carbon monoxide in 2000.
In the nearly 20 years since their death, the Double Angel Foundation and the ballpark that were built in their honor serve as a testament to community, the resolve of the Dixey family and, ultimately, the empowering force of the sport.
For those reasons, playing baseball at Double Angel — a two-field facility that opened in 2006 and remains one of the preeminent complexes in the state — feels different.
“Everybody sees the statues walking in, so as players, you always have their story in the back of your mind,” said Brody McCord, a Legend alum now at Colorado Mesa. “Every time I played there, I was always thinking of that story. And as a team, we knew when we were going to Double Angel, and often playing under the lights on one of the nicest fields around, it was going to be special.”
Founded in 2000, the Double Angel Foundation set out to increase carbon monoxide awareness on a national scale. That goal, in conjunction with building the ballpark, gave Ken and Bambi Dixey purpose after tragically losing the two youngest of their four sons in an accident at Lake Powell.
The Dixeys’ continued efforts, fronted by their foundation, eventually resulted in widespread safety changes by boat manufacturers to implement warning labels as well as safer designs for carbon monoxide emissions. In the Dixeys’ case, their houseboat’s faulty design covered its carbon monoxide vents with a swim deck. The boys were swimming, came up beneath the deck, and were overwhelmed by odorless fumes emanating from the generator.
“My parents were definitely hurting after losing my brothers — we all were,” said older brother Connor, now 33. “But they stayed together and they committed to building the ballfields no matter the adversity. They went all the way to Congress to help get the laws changed. … They’re very strong people, they stayed positive, they had a great community behind them. A lot of people would crawl inside of a hole after something like that, but they did the opposite.”
The motivation for the ballpark was two-fold. Parker, then a relatively small town, lacked youth baseball fields. And, both Dillon and Logan were budding ballplayers. Dillon, 11, was an accomplished pitcher for the Colorado Bombers, having thrown a no-hitter in the last game he took the mound. Logan, 8, was a tough, fearless catcher for the Parker Pulverizers.
But building the facility proved a momentous challenge. The original plan called for four fields — one named for each Dixey son — and the foundation originally hoped to open it Aug. 3, 2001, the one-year anniversary of the boys’ deaths. But Ken Dixey admitted it was all “pretty stressful for us” as it became clear it would take several years to get the job done.
“We had just lost our sons, we were trying to keep our heads above everything, and we took on a project that could have buried us,” Ken Dixey said. “It was such a big project that if we hadn’t had all the help — and not just monetary but community support, all the people on our board — we wouldn’t have got it done.”
The facility cost $3.5 million to build, and it was funded entirely by the non-profit foundation with no taxpayer support. The Parker Water and Sanitation District gave 40 acres to the foundation for “essentially nothing,” Dixey said, on a 99-year lease that jump-started the project. From there, donations for earth-moving, electrical work, sod and building supplies poured in. Meanwhile, the foundation — with widespread community support in Parker and beyond — did its own fundraising via events such as golf tournaments and Harley rides.
So, when Connor Dixey finally threw out the first pitch on June 3, 2006, the honorary ballpark had been a long time coming.
“There were many times we thought we just weren’t going to get it done,” Ken Dixey said. “There were so many hurdles, and the cost just kept piling up. It came time to buy the lights, and I had sort of forgot about those, and they were like $600,000. We were like, ‘How are we going to come up with this money?’ But once we got the land, the foundation was determined.”
Double Angel’s long-term presence as a gleaming stage for local high school and college summer teams — in recent years, Little League games have also been possible with a change to turf infields and, thus, movable bases — came with challenges, too.
Ken Dixey said the ballpark costs between $100,000 and $130,000 a year to run and maintain, which put the foundation in the red by “thousands of dollars” annually.
“That deficit was after the golf tournament each year, after all the other fundraising,” he said. “It was a struggle every year. We couldn’t continue to run the park, because our original intent was to get it built and then turn it over to someone. The foundation’s ambition was not to run a ballpark.”
But finding a suitor for Double Angel proved difficult. The Town of Parker, Parker Youth Sports and various other local sporting entities declined. Then, in 2011, the foundation thought they’d found someone to run it, a private coach. But Ken Dixey said that individual “almost ruined the park.”
“This guy ruined relationships I had with vendors and people who took care of the park, and the park was going to (chaos) — there were weeds everywhere and it was kind of a mess,” Ken Dixey said. “We were definitely worried about losing it, and I wasn’t having a lot of luck finding another entity to take it over. We didn’t know what was going to happen.”
That situation took the park a year to recover from. When it did, back in better shape and again fully controlled by the foundation, stability was finally found in the hands of Gameday Baseball. That local organization has leased the ballpark from the foundation since 2012, freeing it from the daily financial burden of field upkeep and lighting.
Now, the majority of the foundation’s donations go toward scholarships that help defray baseball costs for underprivileged youth players. The foundation awards up to $7,000 in scholarships annually. It used to give them to high school seniors, as it did for McCord, but now focuses solely on helping Little Leaguers.
Meanwhile, the Dixeys have seen lots of changes to boat design safety and carbon monoxide awareness that they helped pushed through.
“Two years ago, Bambi and I walked around the boat show in the convention center downtown, and every boat had two warning labels on it — one at the stern where the exhaust was, and one at the helm at the steering wheel,” Ken Dixey said.
“We always felt like if we just had a warning sticker that was at the helm … our kids would have never died. Now that (awareness) has improved a lot, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife has carbon monoxide warnings on the back of their state boating registration booklet. We’re trying to make that happen in all 50 states.”
In Parker, however, the foundation’s work is done.
“There’s a couple of angels always watching over the players on those fields,” said Jim Anest, Dillon’s coach on the Bombers and the foundation’s original chairman. “I’d like to think that gives a little extra on those line drives, it puts a little extra on the fastballs. Games there always feel a little more important and they always will.”