NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

December 6, 2013

Newburyport needs to invest in its playing fields

When I arrived in Newburyport in 1968 to pursue a lifetime dream of coaching high school baseball, there were three rather run down baseball fields in the city: the Lower Field, the Belleville (Bresnahan) Field, and Cashman Park. The freshmen and JV teams -- with their coaches and a lot of hard work -- made the Belleville and Cashman fields playable, but the High School field was the worst in the NEC and later in the CAL. Over time the high school field was improved mostly through fundraising efforts by the coaching staff and the varsity players who played on it.

While the baseball program has become the most successful in Division I of the CAL, embarrassingly, the city is down to one field that must serve the Senior-, Senior Babe Ruth-, and Babe Ruth leagues in addition to Freshman, JV and Varsity teams. It has become badly overused and poorly maintained by the city.

Coaches around the CAL regularly asked me what happened to Cashman Park as a baseball field and how could Newburyport play on the dangerous Bresnahan field? Since 1970 the NHS coaching staff repeatedly asked the school’s administration to improve the baseball field situation in Newburyport because we feel our kids deserve it. We asked our various mayors and School Committees to form a subcommittee to go on a field trip around the league and check out their respective field situations and compare their findings to Newburyport in all sports not just baseball.

Unselfishly, the high school program has made many sacrifices necessary to schedule practices and games around one playing field. Mayor Holaday and parks coordinator Lise Reid produced an architectural drawing of how a new baseball field with 90-foot base paths, could be constructed on Fuller Field. Maybe this is a start in the right direction.

Baseball coaches in this city -- at least since 1964 when Jack Welch coached Newburyport’s last Northeast Conference championship baseball team -- always encouraged our athletes to participate in two other sports. We believe this affects other varsity sports at NHS over the long hall. All of us also believed that playing other competitive sports make the individual a better all-around competitive athlete, as Bobby Orr has said many times. Hockey coaches, Jerry York from BC and Jack Parker at BU are on public record for saying that they recruit the all-around athlete first for their great programs. We need more and better fields in the city, not just for soccer or baseball, but all outdoor team sports.

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