Newburyport Daily News
---- — 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.
Each participant of youth sports in the city, we were told, pays $15 to maintain the fields of the City of Newburyport. We total over 1,000 kids playing various sports during the summer, fall and spring. Where does that money go? Why not have a portion of it go toward building and maintaining our regular fields? How about for a field at Fuller and another at the corner at Crow Lane and Low Street? The baseball community from the City of Newburyport is only asking for some equality and fairness in the building, maintenance, and use of the city’s athletic fields.
Doing some research on my own years ago, I came to wonder if Newburyport was the only city or town, or one of the only ones, in Massachusetts that doesn’t have regular field maintenance or work done by a designated department in the city or town. Could that be so? We, the baseball community in Newburyport, seek to address and solve this unfortunate situation. Our youngsters deserve to play on one, or two, or three safe, well-groomed ball fields that they can take pride in. So we look forward to beginning a constructive dialogue toward that end for the sake of our community’s youth and the future of Newburyport athletics.
William Pettingell is the former Head Baseball Coach at Newburyport High School and founder of the NHS Baseball Alumni Association.