League-Wide Awards Handed Out To The Firebirds

By Greg Joyce

On Friday night before game one of the playoffs, CCBL league president Judy Scarafile was on hand to present three league-wide awards to the Orleans Firebirds. Here is the official award presentation transcript:

“Tonight we are very pleased to have 3 awards about to be presented here on the field at Eldredge Park.

First is the 2011 East Division Championship Trophy.  League president Judy Walden Scarafile is presenting this to the Orleans Firebirds . This stunning bowl is being presented to President Don LeSieur, GM Sue Horton and Field Manager Kelly Nicholson.

Orleans finished the regular season with a 24-17 -3 record for a total of 51 points. They ended the regular season winning 9 of their last 10 and closed the season with a  4 – game winning  streak.

Congratulations to the entire Orleans Firebird organization!

Tonight we are very excited to present the Manny Robello 10th Player Award to Orleans first baseman Ben Waldrip, from Medford, Mass and Jacksonville State. The hard hitting first baseman batted .276 for the season with 134 AB, 6 HR and 23 RBI. Ben played in 39 games. He was an All Star at Fenway Park last Friday night, playing 1B for the East Squad.  Ben was a Coca- Cola Player of the Week in June and  was drafted by Atlanta Braves in 2010 and Kansas City Royals in 2011. Also, Ben played for Coach Scott Pickler for one season at Cypress College. Congratulations Ben on receiving this prestigious award.

Our third award is the Russ Ford Outstanding Relief Pitcher Award. This is named after a wonderful gentleman from Orleans who has been an intergal part of the Orleans organization for decades. Russ went on to become League  president in the 1980’s. It is an honor for me to present this award to Trevor Gott, from Lexington , KY and the Univ of KY

Trevor had an amazing 13 saves in the 19 games he played in. He pitched 22 innings,  had 28 strike outs and only 4 walks. he finished the season with an outstanding 1.23 ERA.”


Awards Handed Out On Wednesday Night

By Greg Joyce

Prior to Wednesday night’s regular season home finale against Chatham, the Orleans Firebirds organization handed out their annual awards, citing eight players who went above and beyond expectations throughout the season.

The Charles F. Moore, Sr. Award for the team’s most valuable player went to Matt Duffy (Long Beach State), who was outstanding for the Firebirds all season long. Coming in as a temp, Duffy filled in at shortstop, second base, and third base, displaying his versatility in the field. He also slid into the three-spot in the lineup by the midpoint of the season, and finished the season as the team’s leading hitter, batting .346.

Duffy’s roommate and journey-mate, Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State) shared the Charles F. Moore, Jr. Award with John Brebbia (Elon). The award cited Waldrip and Brebbia for their outstanding performance on and off the field. The young men have performed incredibly on the field for their team, and are two of the nicest players you will meet off the field as well.

Trevor Gott (Kentucky) was awarded with the Thomas Yankus Pitching Award for his performance on the mound. Gott finished the season 12-for-12 in save opportunities, with a 1.29 ERA. The All-Star’s cool demeanor and impressive poise on the hill earned him the relief pitcher of the year for the CCBL.

The next award was the Castleberry Coaches’ award, and it went to Reed Gragnani (Virginia) and Ronnie Shaeffer (UC Irvine). These two players did everything their coaches asked of them, and came to the field each and every day with great attitudes that their coaches were lucky to have.

Finally, the Harry Hossfeld Spirit Award was given to Andrew Aplin (Arizona State) and Anthony Gomez (Vanderbilt). These two players gave the Firebirds a much-needed spark when they arrived at the beginning of July, and their presence and energy could be felt in every game. Whether they were hitting, making spectacular defensive plays, or just getting guys excited in the dugout, Aplin and Gomez gave Orleans the jumpstart it needed to lock up the number one seed in the East.

Together, Duffy and Waldrip Share Journey From Temp to All-Star

By Greg Joyce

They both came in as temporary players, uncertain of how long their stay on the Cape would be. They both played well enough to earn full contracts. They usually play next to each other on the diamond, and hit back-to-back in the Orleans Firebirds lineup. They are roommates and have developed a great friendship, on and off the field. And on Friday, they will both shine under the bright lights of Fenway Park for the 2011 Cape Cod Baseball League All-Star Game. Together.

Matt Duffy (Long Beach State) and Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State) have done nearly everything together during their summer on the Cape. Although they may have different playing styles, their success has been off the charts, exemplifying what the Cape League is all about: players who come in and turn heads, making a name for themselves. Duffy and Waldrip have certainly done that in Orleans, as they have become household names with their performances every night. Now with both being named to the All-Star team, they are starting to get recognized league-wide. After going through leaps and bounds just to get a chance to play on the Cape, both Duffy and Waldrip are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

Getting to the Cape

The road to the Cape was not easy for either player.

Duffy knew he wanted to be playing for a Cape League team this summer, and worked for it all year long at Long Beach State.

“I pushed with my coaches to try to get me out here on the Cape for a long time,” Duffy said. “Our infield coach and third base coach at Long Beach, Jesse Zepeda, really fought to get me out here too. He did everything he could: made calls, every day, every week.”

The determination paid off, as Duffy was finally offered a temporary contract by Orleans field manager Kelly Nicholson, after other teams passed over him.

Waldrip had a similar story in terms of trying to get a roster spot. After putting up stellar numbers in his freshman season at St. Anselm’s, the big man was not even invited to try out to play on the Cape.

“It was kind of a bummer,” Waldrip said about not getting the invite.

In his sophomore year, Waldrip was coming off surgery and played for Y-D field manager Scott Pickler at Cypress College. But not even Pickler would give Waldrip a shot on the Cape, and he was forced to play in the New England Collegiate Baseball League instead.

“It was kind of like people were always saying ‘You’re not good enough to play in this league,’” Waldrip said.

Finally after putting up more impressive numbers in his junior year at Jacksonville State, Waldrip was offered the temporary contract.

“I talked to Kelly on the phone, and he was like, ‘We need a temporary first baseman,’” Waldrip explained. “So I was like, ‘If I hit, will I stick around?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah we’ll keep you as long as we can.’ But realistically, I figured at some point I’d be released.”

“And everyone was saying, ‘Oh, you’re just gonna be here for a couple weeks,’” he said.

Given what it took for them just to get temporary contracts, Duffy and Waldrip both came in with a chip on their shoulder. In a league filled with guys from big-name schools and powerhouse conferences, both players knew they had something to prove.

“I have a huge chip on my shoulder, any time we play any teams,” Duffy said. “It’s like I have to prove myself every day, cause none of these coaches wanted to take me on a temp [contract], let alone a full [contract].”

“Right, and in a way that’s been cool for me too,” Waldrip added. “None of the other teams would ever take me in my first two years of summer ball. It’s nice to come out and finally just show who you are and play against the teams who never wanted to take you.

“[Coming from] smaller schools, you have to come down here and kind of make a name for yourself. Cause people are like, ‘Oh, where’s that school?’ I like it in a way. You’re not being known for where you come from. You’re making your own impression on the people, and they’re gonna like you for what kind of player you are, not just where you go to school.”

Unsure Times

After working so hard just to get temporary contracts, Duffy and Waldrip knew from the moment they arrived in Orleans that their days there could be numbered.

“I didn’t really have a ton of expectations coming in, just trying to stick around for as long as I could,” Duffy said.

“Coming in, we were living together, so every night we were kind of talking about what we were gonna do if we got released or when we got released,” Waldrip said. “We were just kind of coming out every day, doing the best we could to just stick around day to day and hopefully impress enough people that we’d get the opportunity to stick around.”

Right from the beginning of the season, Duffy and Waldrip turned heads. And they didn’t just impress fans; they impressed their coaches and teammates alike.

Duffy began the season hitting in the bottom third of the lineup, but by the end of June, he had taken over the leadoff spot and was the team’s best hitter. On top of that, he showed he could play at shortstop, third base, or second base, proving to be a valuable and versatile player early on.

Waldrip recorded his first home run of the year on June 17 in Falmouth, and never looked back after that. His second bomb came two nights later, an opposite field shot that seemed like it was still rising when it hit the netting over the 350’ sign in left field.

The early success of the two temps was showcased best in a win against Brewster on June 25, as Duffy and Waldrip drove in all five runs for Orleans. It was after the game that many people started focusing on how the Firebirds could keep both guys around, with final rosters due on July 1.

Both players knew of the deadline, and were just hoping for a full contract from Nicholson.

“The whole time, I’d ask Kelly, you know, ‘If you’re gonna release me, I understand, I just need to know so I can either try to catch on somewhere else down here or go to some other league,’” Waldrip said.

Getting the Call

It was Duffy who found out first that he’d be sticking around for the whole summer, and Waldrip found out a few days later. Having stuck together through the first month of the season, it was only fitting that the two went in to sign their full contracts at the same time.

“It was pretty cool cause we had kind of gone through the whole thing together,” Duffy said.

Finally knowing they were safe on the team, Duffy and Waldrip were able to just focus on baseball, and the two continued to perform at the highest level.

“This whole summer’s kind of surpassed expectations,” Duffy said. “We just kind of came in going day to day, trying to stick around each day. What it’s turned into is definitely not something I expected it to.”

For Waldrip, the summer has been a dream come true as well, but for a slightly different reason. Growing up in Medford, Mass., he spent his summers watching games on the Cape, hoping some day he too would get to don one of the jerseys himself.

“Growing up around the Cape, spending summers down here, I always wanted to play in this league,” Waldrip said. “So getting the opportunity to come down and play in the league, I just wanted to one, have fun, and two, just get away from everything, just play baseball, and not worry about anything except baseball. It all ended up working out.”

The All-Star Nod

When Duffy and Waldrip arrived at Eldredge Park together in Waldrip’s truck last Friday, their teammate Maxx Tissenbaum (Stony Brook) came up to them with the big news: that morning, they had both been named starters on the 2011 Cape League Eastern Division All-Star team.

“We pulled up to the field, and Tissenbaum walked up and said congratulations,” Waldrip said.

“That was pretty cool,” Duffy added. “Going through everything together, the same kind of path, both having pretty good success. Making the All-Star team was kind of just icing on the cake.”

The two will make the trip to Fenway Park on Friday night to represent Orleans and the Eastern division with teammates Trevor Gott (Kentucky) and Tyler Johnson (Stony Brook). Waldrip will be the starting first baseman, while Duffy will be over at shortstop.

Their selections were well deserved, and their manager was their biggest advocate in the process.

“I’ve been up here for seven summers as a manager, and I told Matt Duffy and Ben Waldrip, I’ve never walked out of an All-Star meeting more happy,” Nicholson said the night of the selection. “Two temporary guys that are starting in the All-Star game. It’s a great story. And they’re roommates. They’re hall of fame kids. High, high-character young men. I couldn’t be happier. It couldn’t happen to two better guys. I’m really, really happy for them.”

They wont be playing right next to each other or batting one after the other as they usually do on a nightly basis with the Firebirds, but they will be there together. It wouldn’t have happened any other way.

Roommates, Brothers

During their first week in Orleans, Duffy and Waldrip were living in a house with Tissenbaum, but eventually moved into their current house with the vonThaden family, where they have been together all along the way.

“It was kind of weird because we were the two temp guys and [Tissenbaum] was on a full [contract],” Waldrip said. “I’m sure he didn’t understand a lot of the things we were going through.”

Throughout the summer, Duffy and Waldrip have been able to grow close, whether it is at the field or just in downtime at their house.

“[Early on], we were always hanging out with each other, talking, getting to know each other, and we grew real close, especially dealing with the same things all summer,” Waldrip said.

“Just going through the whole summer with him, [he is] kind of like a brother now,” Duffy said.

The two feel lucky for the way their living situation has worked out, as they have grown close not only with each other, but with the vonThaden family as well.

“We’ve had a great time,” Waldrip said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to stay with the vonThadens. We couldn’t have asked for a better setup and a better host family than what they are for us. We’ve had the best opportunity to have our own place and come together and bond. Not just me and Matt, but the host family too.”

“And with the whole living situation, it makes it so much easier just to relax and play baseball,” Duffy added.

As for the roommate dynamics?

“He’s soft,” Duffy said jokingly of Waldrip, as the two broke into laughter. “I’m kidding. It’s been pretty good. I wouldn’t say I’m messy, but I’d say I’m a messier roommate than he is. He’s not too tough to deal with.”

Looking Ahead

There is still more baseball to be played for Duffy, Waldrip, and the Firebirds, with the playoffs just around the corner. Of course, Duffy and Waldrip are a huge reason why the Birds are even talking about postseason baseball, as on many nights throughout the season they have carried their team to victories.

With four regular season games left on the schedule, Duffy and Waldrip have lit up the stat sheet on a nightly basis. Duffy has slid into the three-spot in the lineup, and is hitting a team-high .331 at the plate. Meanwhile, Waldrip is tied for the league-lead in home runs with six, and leads the Firebirds with 20 RBI. The two have combined for 70 hits, 23 runs, and 32 RBI. The 70 hits are almost a quarter of the team’s hits on the season, a ridiculous stat for any two players, not to mention two temps.

Although they have been identical in everything they have done this summer, Duffy and Waldrip may go down different paths after the season is over.

Having just finished his sophomore year at Long Beach State, Duffy will head back there for his junior season and will be eligible for next year’s MLB draft.

“I’ve still got another year of school, and I don’t know,” Duffy said. “We’ll see what happens in the draft. I haven’t really talked to anybody too much about expectations or where I’m supposed to go or even if I’m supposed to go. So I’m just kind of playing it by ear, gonna work towards the spring, and try to have a good season next year at Long Beach.”

As for Waldrip, the Kansas City Royals’ 40th-round draft pick from this past June will have some decisions to make.

“I’ve heard multiple times talking to the Royals this summer, that they got upset, saying, ‘We feel like you have a chip on your shoulder,’” Waldrip said. “And I was like, ‘Well, you know, I do in a way.’ Because they didn’t want to sign me at the beginning of the summer. They thought I wasn’t good enough.”

With the amazing summer that Waldrip has had, the Royals are now in hot pursuit of the first baseman, but nothing has been decided upon yet. Last week, a report from the Cape Cod Times surfaced that Waldrip would be signing with Kansas City right after the All-Star game, however Big Ben has said otherwise.

“That’s not true,” he said on Tuesday night. “Their scouting director is quoted in it, and we had talked and they haven’t negotiated anything different with me. So I told him I wasn’t gonna take the initial offer, and they haven’t negotiated.

“Whoever wrote it should have called me or something to find out the truth,” added Waldrip while laughing.

Waldrip has until August 15th to decide whether or not he wants to sign with the Royals, and will likely have more serious talks with them after the end of the season.

“They didn’t really want to sign me at the beginning of the summer, and now they’ve been coming on hotter because I’ve been playing well,” he said. “Definitely by [August 15th] I’ll have a decision. Money’s gonna play a big part in it, whatever they’re willing to offer. I still have another year of school left, so if I don’t end up signing, then I’ll go back to school for my last year, hopefully stay healthy, and get drafted higher next year.”

With such a big decision weighing on his shoulders, Waldrip isn’t quite ready to end his memorable summer in Orleans just yet.

“I’ve had a ton of fun this summer, living with Duff, coming here every day playing baseball with the fans, the atmosphere that Orleans has, and I’d like to finish out the summer,” Waldrip said.

Nothing is certain in the futures of either Duffy or Waldrip, but then again, that’s how their summer in Orleans began. As is the case for many baseball players, they never really know what’s next. With so many uncertainties to deal with, the two can at least take solace in one definite thing: their common bonds.

Two unknowns, two temps, two roommates, two friends-turned-brothers, and now, two All-Stars. Matt Duffy and Ben Waldrip have both accomplished so much in just two months on the Cape, and they have done it all together.

Brebbia Shining On The Mound

By Greg Joyce

For every player in the Cape Cod Baseball League, getting to start and play baseball every night is an honor. But for John Brebbia (Elon), each start means something more, every inning pitch holds extra importance and the pitcher understands how special it is to be playing on the Cape.

If you look at the Firebirds roster, you’d see that Brebbia is officially from Sharon, Mass. What many people don’t know, though, is that Brebbia grew up spending his summers in Chatham. He grew up as a fan attending all the Cape League games, and now that he gets to pitch every week, he’s on the other side of everything.

“I grew up watching these games, and I was always that little kid running on to the field after games to get autographs,” Brebbia said with a huge smile on his face. “And now little kids coming up and doing that to me, it’s surreal.

“But it’s really exciting. I love having family here. Gosh, you come out and you pitch against the best competition, it’s exhilarating. It’s great.”

The righty who attends Elon University started the season out of the bullpen for the Orleans Firebirds, but has now started three games, and Brebbia seems comfortable taking on more innings.

“It’s been pretty good,” Brebbia said of the transition to starting. “I feel more and more comfortable with it every time I pitch. Like a lot of these guys, I used to start in high school. So I feel fairly comfortable with it, I just haven’t done it in a while. But I’m having no problem with it. I’m enjoying it. I love pitching in general, so whether it’s starting or relieving, it’s going to be fun no matter what.”

That attitude of having fun on the mound has gone a long way for Brebbia, who had his best start of the season on Tuesday night. He threw five innings of one-run ball in the Firebirds’ 3-1 win over Hyannis, going 4.2 innings before allowing his first hit.

As is the case with most successful pitchers, Brebbia was in the zone all night, not even knowing he hadn’t allowed a hit until Hyannis finally got its first base knock.

“I actually didn’t even realize it until the kid did get the hit and I heard a bunch of cheering from [Hyannis’] dugout, and I looked up at the scoreboard and I was like, ‘Oh, that was their first hit,’” Brebbia said with a grin. “Cause as a pitcher, you focus on every pitch throwing as best as you can. You hear about pitchers being in the zone and stuff like that, and that’s what I was doing. I was zoned in. I was throwing the right pitch every time, and until the kid got the hit, I honestly didn’t even realize.”

The key to Brebbia’s success all night was getting ahead in the count early on batters, so that he could mix in his offspeed pitches and pick his locations. Brebbia has been working on a slider with assistant coach Jason Brown so far this season, and the results have been very positive. The slider compliments Brebbia’s fastball, giving him the ability to fool batters when up in the count to record outs.

“I thought he was outstanding,” field manager Kelly Nicholson said of his starter after Tuesday night’s game. “He was really good. I was really proud of him. He works hard. He commands that fastball. His slider is really coming along. I know he’s really worked hard with [assistant coach Jason Brown] on that. And that hard work is paying off.”

Brebbia is now 1-1 on the season with a 1.90 ERA. In 19 innings pitched, the 2011 New York Yankees’ 30th round draft pick has struck out 16, and impresses everyone who gets the chance to see him throw.

Statistics aside though, Brebbia knows there’s a more important meaning to each game. After Tuesday night’s game, Brebbia got to enjoy the win with his family on the field.

Following the team meeting, he was in the dugout collecting his belongings while asking Nicholson when he could watch tape of his mechanics so he could make some improvements.

Then, on his walk to the clubhouse in the outfield, he met with his dad and his two dogs, and had another conversation. It was likely about baseball, but that’s not what mattered. What mattered was that Brebbia got to savor the win by spending it with family members, who were with him all those summers he spent watching from the lawn chairs and blankets.

He may be just ten years removed from being another face in the crowd at Cape League games, but now Brebbia is the one on the diamond, living the dream. He is in the spotlight, and making the most of it. He is always looking to improve himself, and has an impressive work ethic. And most importantly, with his family always at his games to cheer him on, John Brebbia is enjoying every second of his Cape League experience. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

Firebirds Work Out At Fenway

By Greg Joyce

Thursday was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Orleans Firebirds.

Although the Orleans Firebirds officially had an off day on Thursday, most of the team was on a bus at 6:00 am. But there was good reason for their early start: The Firebirds, along with the other nine teams in the league, were a part of Scout Day at Fenway Park on Thursday.

Players got a chance to show off their swings to over 50 scouts who were sitting in the stands, while representatives from the Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Rays, and Brewers (among others) were on the field assisting with the workout.

All of the position players were present for Orleans, as well as pitchers Tyler Johnson (Stony Brook), Matt Dunbar (Southern Nevada), and Kurt Heyer (Arizona), although there was no pitching done.

After the players were timed running the 60’ in the outfield, they spread out across the famed Fenway outfield to shag fly balls while the Brewster Whitecaps was taking batting practice. While they were out there, some of the players and coaches got to go inside the Green Monster and see the scene behind the wall.

Soon enough, it was time for the Firebirds to start their session of batting practice. The first group consisted of Rudy Flores (Florida International), Maxx Tissenbaum (Stony Brook), Tarran Senay (NC State), and Matt Lowenstein (Loyola Marymount). After hitting, Tissenbaum talked about what it was like to be batting at Fenway. He said after his first swing, he looked up and saw that he was actually hitting in Fenway, with the Green Monster in the background. Tissenbaum hit the Monster with two of his hits.

The second group to bat included Ronnie Shaeffer (UC Irvine), Andrew Aplin (Arizona State), Matt Duffy (Long Beach State), and Steve Selsky (Arizona). Duffy and Selsky both hit shots off the wall in left.

Finally, the last group to bat was Jake Stewart (Stanford), Jayce Boyd (Florida State), and Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State). Stewart twice hit a ball off the top of the Monster, while Waldrip pulled a few balls off the short wall in right.

Meanwhile, it was Boyd who put on the show for the Firebirds. His first home run was a rocket off the Sports Authority sign above the Green Monster. Though he later said he didn’t see it hit off the sign, everyone else in attendance sure did. The second bomb hit off the light tower above the Monster. And just for fun in his last round, Boyd hit one more home run into the first row of Monster seats.

The team after their BP at Fenway Park

After BP, the players were led upstairs into a room where they took a computerized test to measure their baseball IQ. They were asked to do things like identify pitches out of a pitcher’s hand (ex: four-seam fastball vs. two-seam fastball), and determine when a pitch was coming through the strike zone.

The final event of the day was each player getting weighed and measured for official numbers for the scouts. This marked the end of the day for the Firebirds, while other Cape Cod Baseball League teams were just starting sessions of their own.

One of the notable guests at the workout included esteemed baseball analyst and Cape Cod League fan, Peter Gammons. The baseball guru has been around the Cape League for a while, and talked about what a special opportunity it was for the players.

“I think it’s just fun to come to this park,” Gammons said. About three weeks ago, the Cubs were in town. Starlin Castro comes out of the dugout and he goes, ‘I can’t believe it, I’m playing at Fenway Park!’

“But I think college players see, ‘All right, this is what it’s about. And it’s good. It’s great they get to be seen. The Yankees and Red Sox arranged this so all the teams could come scout these kids. It’s good.”

Gammons noted one special case that he remembers well from the workouts, when Bobby Kielty was playing for Brewster. Kielty had come into the summer undrafted, but had a solid summer and an even better workout.

“He came in here [to the workout] and hit 10 bombs; right-handed and left-handed,” Gammons said. “And at the end of the summer, he got half a million dollars from the Twins as an undrafted player. This workout here was really what did it. That makes it fun.”

Gammons explained how the workout can be a good chance for players to show scouts what they have aside from their play in the Cape League.

“I think just the more they get seen by professional scouts, the better it is,” Gammons said. “Cause sometimes, you get in to the Cape League games and wooden bats, they’re playing every day, sometimes the games get pretty tough. So just to have a workout so [the scouts] can watch their tools, watch their swings, I think it’s important.

“And especially to be able to come into this ballpark and work out. It’s the Red Sox’ way of reaching out and saying, ‘Hey look it, we’re a big part of New England baseball.’”

There were no games played on Thursday night, but the baseball that took place earlier in the day at baseball’s cathedral will be remembered forever. Whether it leads to signings, more interest in a players, or just a chance to step on to the beautiful Fenway Park, the players will never forget this amazing opportunity.

Waldrip Named Coca Cola Player of the Week

By Greg Joyce

“Big Ben” has struck again. On Monday,  Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State) was named the Coca Cola player of the week by the Cape Cod Baseball League. Waldrip leads the league in home runs, and is tied for the team lead in RBI. Here is the official release from the CCBL:

Ben Waldrip / Photo by SportsPix

Ben Waldrip, Orleans 1B/DH

       Ben Waldrip (Jacksonville State), the Cape Cod Baseball League home run leader, has earned this week’s player of the week award. Waldrip notched two of his league-best three round-trippers this week, while driving in four runs in four games. In a 4-3 win over Cotuit on Sunday, he went 3-3 with a double and a home run.

Waldrip is a local product, hailing from Medford, Mass. The 6’6 lefty is a junior at Jacksonville State, and played for Y-D manager Scott Pickler for one season at Cypress College. Waldrip was a draft pick of the Atlanta Braves in 2010, and was taken in the 40th round of the draft this year by the Kansas City Royals.

Eldredge Park Receives Facelift In Offseason

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)



The finished project.

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.

The new addition to the 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.