By Greg Joyce
If you have driven by Eldredge Park in the past three months, you probably saw a lot of construction equipment, and not a lot of baseball. While no baseball in the spring is usual for the field, the facelift that it received was anything but.
The work that went on this winter and spring was Phase II of the field improvements project at Eldredge Park. The Orleans Firebirds began the project in 2010, and during the first phase last summer, new dugouts were constructed in addition to a unique backstop and much needed sideline netting systems. Those steps were completed successfully, giving way for the next improvements to be made in this past offseason.
To say that Phase II has returned Eldredge Park to one of the premier venues for summer baseball would be an understatement. The changes that were made in the offseason bring a state of the art infield to the park, in addition to many other improvements.
Led by John Kaletski, the Clerk of the Works for the Orleans Athletic Association, the grass of the entire infield and 20 feet into the outfield and foul territory was torn up. The crew dug a foot deep into the ground, laser graded the area, and then laid down a new infield mix of Kentucky Blue Grass sod. The improvements on the infield look amazing, and provide an excellent playing ground for the Firebirds infielders. The mound and the home plate areas were rebuilt to go along with the revamped infield. Additionally, an infield warning track was installed for improved player safety.
(Photos courtesy of John Kaletski)
While the infield is the most noticeable of the improvements, there were multiple other changes as well. The right field sideline netting that was put up last summer was raised five feet, adding more security for the fans sitting on the hill.
The outfield received some changes of its own as well. The warning track was widened to 15 feet to meet NCAA guidelines, and new foul poles were put in down each line. A new center field flagpole was also mounted.
Both bullpens were reconstructed to meet NCAA specifications, and in the coming weeks, a fence will be built around the home bullpen for enclosure.
Finally, on the back of the dugouts, a logo signage was put in, reading “Home of the Orleans Firebirds.” It was a special finishing touch for the already impressive dugouts.
According to Kaletski, “the Firebirds have initiated a long term relationship with Sports Turf Specialties, Inc., of Wrentham, MA, to insure that the Firebirds facilities continue to be maintained at the highest possible standards.” Sports Turf Specialties is known as the best athletic field construction and maintenance firm in New England. Their other clients include the Boston Red Sox, the New England Patriots, the New York Mets, the National Football League, the Portland Seadogs, the Lowell Spinners, Boston College, Brown University, and the Newport, RI Tennis Hall of Fame.
Of course, none of this would be possible if it were not for the extremely generous grant from the Yawkey Foundation. Their contributions to the Orleans Athletic Association have allowed the Firebirds to play on one of the finest venues in the country, and will do so for many years to come.