ALLSTON, MA—In an array of dark suits and baseball hats, key players in Massachusetts made new fans of members of the Allston-Brighton community last week at Hardiman "Tar" Park. An all-star team filled the ballpark as state officials, including Mayor Menino, congratulated volunteers of the the New England Sports Turf Managers Association for transforming the Little League field into major league material in a five-day Extreme Field Makeover.
NESTMA makes over field
“It’s going to be as good as Fenway Park,” said Mayor Menino as he stood on the to-be pitcher’s mound, looking through the bright sun at the third-grade class of the John A. Garfield Elementary School.
“I think it’s a center of Little League activity…it gives them confidence playing in a good field,” Mayor Menino said as he greeted the youngsters.
With over $100,000 of new turf, infield materials and sprinklers, the third annual NESTMA redevelopment of Massachusetts green area was a collaborative effort uniting the City of Boston Parks Department with the A-B Little League and Oak Square YMCA for a home run effort.
“That’s what you have in Allston-Brighton, good public and private partnerships…that’s why it is such a great community,” said Menino, before handing Ben Polimer, chairman of the Extreme Field Makeover Committee in NESTMA, his trophy: an inscribed bat, wrapped in pink ribbon.
Before the makeover, Polimer described the prior condition of the grounds as having very little grass, mostly weeds, and no park management or irrigation.
“We thought it would be great to give back and show our abilities,” he said.
According to Michelle Folts at the Boston Parks Department, the city looked at 700 fields before deciding to submit an application for a makeover for Hardiman. Though the city works to renovate 10-20 grounds a year, this particular face-lift came as a relief to those who use the field.
Former employee of the Oak Square YMCA, Steve Pecci, came up with the plans to submit the field into the running as a contender for the ground’s makeover.
“We learned how to handle bad bounces and run on uneven fields,” said Pecci, a former player on the original field as a kid. Pecci now runs clinics for up to 30 aspiring coaches.
“We had the location and the impact needed in the community,” said Hilary Cespedes, an employee at Brighton’s Oak Square YMCA.
The Hardiman Park had been chosen by NESTMA from 10 other applicants as the winner for a professionally engineered playing ground.
The Boston Park Department is holding an opening in tandem with the start of the Little League season in April.
For Neil Eustice, president of the Allston-Brighton Little League and former player himself, the renovations could not have come at a better time.
The A-B teams have dominated the baseball and softball games over the past year as the Boy’s Juniors, Majors and Seniors all won their playoffs in District 9. Also, the Girl’s Seniors softball team won the Mayor’s Cup Championship for the second consecutive year.
“The field will get a lot of use,” Eustice said as he stared at the streaming sprinklers, breathing new life to the panels of grass NESTMA members were in the process of laying.
Many neighbors and vendors have stepped up to the plate donating the other necessary elements of a working field, such as a scoreboard, benches, and bases. However, there is still more to be done before the spring makes its return.
The YMCA is looking for monetary donations for new bleachers, a drag mat, a batter’s box template, distance markers and a new fence.
Jerry Quinn, owner of the Kells Bar and Restaurant in Brighton, an avid supporter of many neighborhood initiatives, attended the closing ceremony to the week.
“It is another open space and we need more of it,” he said.
Angela Norris, marketing director at the Oak Square YMCA, noted the week’s worth of enthusiasm to finish the project.
The members and vendors panicked at the previous state of the Hardiman grounds a week before.
“It brings all of these adults back to their past times.”