There are few springtime diversions, for my money, that are better than being by a baseball or softball diamond and charting the game in a scorebook.
The place itself can add so much to the experience either by its ambience or the memories it holds. Some of my favorites:
1. Springfield’s Bill Robinson Field. This definitely makes my top five high school softball diamonds in the state. The red clay, lights and electronic scoreboard help give it a great flavor.
It is named for a special man. The late Bill Robinson was my roommate for a week in Spokane, Washington, at the ASA National Softball Tournament. He was a fixture in the press box at all Springfield softball games, high school or adult contests.
One of my favorite memories was when Tim Brown was coaching Mount Anthony in a softball playoff game against Springfield. His team was the underdog and he used an unorthodox defensive alignment that worked most of the day, but it burned the Patriots late and the hometown Cosmos won.
2. Look beyond the left field fence and there is Birsky-Wyman Field, the Springfield High baseball facility named for legendary Springfield coaches Bo Birsky and Richie Wyman.
Springfield is a baseball town and its history goes back to the old town team, the Springfield Blue Sox, whose history is captured so thoroughly in a book written by Springfield resident Hugh Putnam.
3. Lyndon Institute’s softball diamond. This one joins Springfield in that top five. The sunken diamond is a spectator’s delight, providing an unusual and outstanding vantage point for viewing the game.
4. Poultney’s Legion Field. The site of the high school state championship for many years, this venue is special with its concession behind home plate and press box above. Lights, electronic scoreboard — it has it all. Best of all, Poultney softball coach Tony Lamberton has made even regular season games an event with music, programs and extras you normally do not find during the season at most places.
5. Proctor High School’s baseball diamond. This place is personal to me and makes the list on memories. When I was a kid, the Boston Park League All-Stars came here to play a game against the area Maple Valley League all-star contingent.
I once saw Teddy Pentkowski make one of the best plays I had ever seen for the Proctor Post 6 Legion team against Granville, going deep in the hole at short with runners on first and second and outrunning the lead runner to third for the force play.
Pentkowski died too young in a car accident, early in his high school days. If you ask people who recall him, they will tell you he might well have been the greatest ever to come out of the school.
Suggestion: Put a couple of pitching mounds and home plates on the skating rink just beyond the first base dugout for a perfect bullpen.
6. St. Peter’s Field. Talk about an icon. Mount St. Joseph’s baseball diamond was home to the old Northern League and major league stars such as Robin Roberts, and Johnny Antonelli once pitched off its mound.
Today it is still a beauty that screams all that is good about the game.
7. Windsor’s MacLeay-Royce Field. This is another venue oozing with history. When the late Leon Royce was coaching Windsor High School baseball, he meticulously manicured this gem of a diamond as though it were his own yard. I know he thought of it that way.
8. That little baseball gem behind South Royalton High School — now White River Valley Union High School — with its Blue Monster in left and all those memories of Jim Ballou’s great South Royalton Post 51 Legion teams with the likes of his son Mike and brothers Dusty, Wade and Kyle Rikert, is special because ol the memories and the ambience.
This is baseball in the country. The proof is umpire Steve Marro chasing an animal back into the woods to end a Legion baseball game deer delay.
9. Otter Valley’s Candon Field is a softball gem that requires a little walk to get to. It’s worth it.
I know I have mentioned it before, but Rutland High’s Ashley Porter’s throw from center field for an out at first base ranks as an all-time favorite memory at OV’s softball facility.
Maybe, it is one of those plays that gets better with time? No, it was just as spectacular when it happened.
10. Bellows Falls’ Hadley Field. The first thing anyone of a certain age thinks of when Hadley Field is mentioned is the tape-measure home run Carlton Fisk hit. That homer lives on in these parts the way his World Series home run against the Reds live on everywhere else.
Fisk played at Hadley Field as a member of the Bellows Falls Post 37 American Legion baseball team.
But so many players have strutted their stuff here before and after him. Thinking about its history both on the high school and Legion circuits gives me chills.
11. Brattleboro’s Carl Tenney Field. High school baseball facilities with a covered grandstand are a rarity. I hope they preserve this one.
And talk about a baseball town. Players like Ernie Johnson and Leif Bigelow, along with a slew of others in between, give this town a baseball history that stands with any. Post 5, the high school and the summer league Brattleboro Maples have stories that could fill a library.
12. Adams Field at Green Mountain Union High School. This little bandbox is a power hitter’s paradise, but memories really make it. Chester’s Bert Stewart was a scout who was a fixture by the backstop in the old days with his little notebook. Sit within an earshot of him and you had a baseball conversation that would endure for years.
Oh, there are more. Many, many more. Every ballpark is a great place and everyone has their favorites.
But the weather is about to get warm enough, the fields playable and the games about to dot the landscape from Enosburg to Bennington.
I read recently that Rutland City Alderman Tom DePoy wants to enhance Giorgetti Field, the baseball home of Rutland High, with a new press box and other amenities. Love the idea. Rutland is a baseball town and he knows it.
Now, enough of the reminiscing. It’s time to go out an enjoy these places, making new memories with every inning.
Enjoy the season.