Lynchburg says 'goodbye' to longtime Hillcats employee Ronnie Roberts

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) -- For 28 years, Ronnie Roberts gave his heart and soul to Lynchburg Hillcats baseball.

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"Every day I enjoyed when it was time to open the gates and I would stand at the top of the steps and I always would say, 'Let 'em in! Let 'em all in! Let the fun begin!'" Roberts recalled. "I knew that people were getting ready to come in and leave their worries behind them and enjoy the ballgame."

From head groundskeeper to assistant GM to general manager, Roberts spent his entire baseball career in the Hill City until he retired in 2018.

"When you think of Hillcat baseball, you'll think of Ronnie Roberts," said his friend Terry Falwell.

But now, less than two years later, Roberts is saying an even tougher goodbye to the city he loves. His battle with cancer is sending him back to his home state of North Carolina to enter hospice care.

"We kept saying, 'Ronnie, you need to come home,' and he's like, 'Lynchburg is home,'" said Roberts' sister, Jeanine Craig. "He knows he can get, not better care down there, necessarily, but he'll be closer to family and closer to Duke Hospital."

But before he left town Monday, the Lynchburg community gave him one last celebration: a parade from all those he's touched over these last 30 years to send him off.

"I knew he was well-loved here, but to see this is just unbelievable," said Craig.

"It's good to find out that I was appreciated and I affected a lot of people that I had no idea I did," Roberts said.

If his health allows, Roberts said he hopes to come back for a game, whenever baseball returns.

For now, he's grateful for the life he lived here, and the people he shared it with.

"Even though baseball is not saving lives or anything really important in the grand scheme of things, it's important in the lives of a lot of people," he said. "We feel like we add to the enjoyment and to the goodness of the community and I was glad to be a part of that."

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