"Years ago, Kodak was known for actually two things. Kodak Park film and Kodak Park Fast Pitch Softball World Champions '36 and '40," said Phil Argento, a Kodak Retiree.
From 1958 to 1975, Kodak retiree, Phil Argento, played for Kodak Park in the Rochester Fast Pitch League. He became a part of the hall of fame in 1994. By day, Argento worked in the air conditioning and refrigeration department making sure conditions were perfect for making Kodak film. But at night, Kodak Park and sports came alive.
"Anything that you wanted to do as far as activity goes, and sports goes, it was there for you and if it wasn't there, and you had an idea, you could go to the board. The KPAA board, put your idea in front of them, if they thought it was worthwhile, they would put you in charge of it and sponsor you to make it go," said Argento.
The Kodak Park Athletic Association created the family atmosphere George Eastman envisioned. From bowling to square dancing, from basketball to golf, Argento says everyday and every night something was going on.
"The whole family could come there. You joined the KPAA board. It was a card that you got. It cost a buck and that would entitle you to all the services that they had there for the people," said Argento.
Then there was noon hour for Kodak employees.
"We had an hour for lunch. Now that hour you could go to a show at Theatre on the Ridge for three days in a row for an hour and watch a whole movie or you could play ping pong, go to the gym and play basketball or we had noon hour baseball," said Argento.
Kodak wanted employee families to be active. It started a youth softball program in 1943 and Argento was a part of that. Phil still has one the permission slips that parents had to sign.
"As it grew, it went to 2,500 kids involved in that, that was really good for the city of Rochester, for the parents and good for Kodak," said Argento.
Argento was so good he played professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals, but his family in Rochester needed him and he went to work for Kodak.
He was invited to play for the fast pitch team and the rest is history.
"I'm thankful that I did as well as I could. I always had that feeling to play as hard as you can for as long as you can. Give it all and I tried to work the same way," said Argento.
Sadly, times changed and so did Kodak. The imaging giant couldn't afford the KPAA program. Just five years ago, Argento and other retirees helped demolish the baseball fields and buildings.
"Tearing down the ball field broke my heart and everybody else that played there," said Argento.
"Things have their beginning and they have their end. And they have their middle. You got to take it as it comes and do the best you can," said Argento.
Argento retired in 1986, but he's no stranger to the park. For 22 years he's been an outside contractor with the Kodak Fire Department which means he's never far away from the memories of the best years of his life.