The Newburyport baseball community is staring a crisis in the face, and no answer seems to be on the horizon.
In a letter sent to Mayor Donna Holaday, the City Council, the School Committee and Superintendent Marc Kerble among others, the Newburport High School Baseball Alumni Association President Rob Daigle warns of a looming disaster for the program beginning next season when construction of the new Bresnahan School takes one of only two 90-foot baseball diamonds in the city offline, leaving only Pettingell Park at the high school to accommodate at least five programs over the spring and summer.
“This is a city nightmare,” said retired Newburyport baseball coach Bill Pettingell, for whom the high school field is named. “It’s devastating to the baseball program overall. Taking away our second field and trying to do everything on one field is just impossible. It’s going to be a nightmare for everybody.”
Daigle’s letter applauds the decision to build the new Bresnahan School, but reminds the recipients that there will now only be one regulation field to accommodate the Senior League, Babe Ruth, American Legion, freshman, junior varsity and varsity baseball programs. There are safety concerns related to having 50 to 60 players on the same field concurrently in a city with 10 soccer fields, five softball fields and two football fields.
“I play in three different adult baseball leagues right now,” Daigle said yesterday. “I play in all these different towns in Massachusetts, and I walk in and they’ve got two, three, four baseball fields that are easily taken care of. How is it possible that these little podunk towns that don’t have any success, they don’t have any state championships, they don’t have a lot of following to them, but they have a lot of fields, and we have nothing — one year out from a state championship?”
“The Newburyport baseball program has been handicapped over the years,” echoed Pettingell. “With us only having the high school field and a not very well kept Bresnahan field. I don’t know if there’s any other teams in the Cape Ann League that don’t have three nice 90-foot fields or more.”
NHS athletic director John Daileanes said that he has been working on a solution with the school’s administration and facilities department, and acknowledged the problem of having only one 90-foot diamond to use in the city.
“It is definitely going to pose some issues with us and for baseball in the city of Newburyport, with our high school teams, Babe Ruth and Legion teams that use those fields. (And) I understand the concerns out there,” said Daileanes. “It certainly could impact our high school kids greatly. We want to make sure they have a good experience and a safe experience. So, we are going to work toward that end.”
Daileanes also said he has been working with Geordie Vining of the Office of Planning and Development, but no decision has been reached.
One possibility, according to Daigle, is the upper field behind Nock Middle School that used to have a full diamond and could be refurbished. But time is running out before the ground freezes, rendering the field unworkable until spring.
“At this point in time, that is probably our only alternative that is capable of covering us for a period of time for next year,” said Daigle. “We need to get out there and just strip it down as quickly as possible. If we at least get it stripped down, I’m sure we can get some work in early in the spring, and we may have to share a field for a short period of time. But if we don’t get that stripped down, and get the top level off of that right now, we’ll never be able to do it in the springtime. And that is basically our only alternative right now.”
If a field does not materialize between now and the spring, things could get expensive for the city with teams that would normally walk across the street having to charter buses to go out of town to practice and play.
“If nothing happens, we probably won’t have a freshman baseball team,” predicted Daigle. “We’re going to have to combine (freshmen and JV) because we’re just not going to have the time and space for the players. Either that or the freshman team and the JV team are going to be on the road every single game. They’ll have to be on a bus traveling every single game.”