If you fix it, they will play. So the Scotch Plains Parks and Recreation Department did just that, undertaking a six-month renovation project of Brookside Park’s baseball field. On Thursday, it held a rededication ceremony on the freshly raked and leveled diamond to show off the fruits of its labor.
“What we’re celebrating this evening is really several-fold,” said Ray Poerio, Scotch Plains Director of Parks and Recreation. “We didn’t have the funds to hire an outside contractor, or to even hire an engineering company, so we developed all of the plans ourselves, we did all the conceptual work, and then my staff and myself pretty much rebuilt the entire field.”
The team demolished the existing field, which included removing the backstop and outfield fence, players’ benches, bleachers, and concrete slabs, and re-grading the entire surface. “The infield was originally three-and-a-half feet taller than the outfield,” Poerio said. Once that was complete, the crew planted sod across the outfield.
Had the township enlisted contractors, the project likely would have cost about $150,000, Poerio said. Instead, it amounted to $40,000. Money for the project came from the Scotch Plains Parks and Recreation Department partnered with the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Youth Baseball Association, the St. Bart’s Men’s Softball Association and the Scotch Plains Men’s Softball Association. The Union County Open Space Recreation and Historic Trust Fund then provided a matching grant.
“I’m thankful for the voters of Union County who over ten years ago approved the referendum to collect money towards this fund,” said Al Mirabella, Vice Chairman of the of Union County Board of Freeholders and a Fanwood resident. “We’ve been able to save over 300 acres of land that would have otherwise gone to development where, with the help of projects like this, we’re able to help the towns and rehabilitate parks, and it’s exactly what that fund was designed to do and I’m glad to see that.”
On hand for the ceremony were Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr and Scotch Plains Mayor Nancy Malool.
“This field was in sore need of rehabilitation and it came out beautiful, and I’m so grateful to the freeholders and the organizations that contributed, and a lot of hard work was put in to it and I believe the players are going to love playing here now,” Malool said. “I’m really proud of our recreation department and the work they did.”
The field was dedicated to the late Dom Lawrence, commissioner of the St. Bart's Softball League for 26 years and a longtime Scotch Plains resident and volunteer.
“He was a wonderful man,” said Lawrence’s brother-in-law, Deacon Jack Lynch of St. Helen’s Church in Westfield. “He absolutely loved sports and he contributed to the township in so many ways and although he is greatly missed, his legacy will live on through this field.”