East Lyme baseball: ‘better late than never, right?’
East Lyme — We are frequently reminded that “what is past is prologue,” a gentle hint not to lament what may be the ridiculous circumstances of the present, but to welcome the hope and wonder of the future.
This makes the plight of the baseball team at East Lyme High more palatable. Now we can say “the kids get to play baseball on their home field for the first time since 2018” without needing a barfbag.
Indeed, the town’s ineptitude was a duller ache Tuesday, watching the kids practice on their home field. They actually get to play a home game Wednesday against Old Lyme — and a few state tournament games, too.
“It's just an amazing feeling to see the kids out here smiling,” coach Jack Biggs was saying.
Biggs, also in charge of the music over the public address system while the kids practiced, said he was in the press box, vacant for a few years, when he saw some “CD’s from 2011.”
“I tell the kids and they go, ‘What are CDs?”’ Biggs said, underscoring how long it’s been since the field was operable.
The two-minute drill version: The Board of Education approved a $175,000 expenditure in 2021 to fix a boatload of issues, including poor drainage. Irrigation and other incidentals increased the total $230,000, before the town’s poohbahs realized reconstruction over rehab would be more prudent. The epiphany arrived: Band-Aids don’t work on hemorrhages.
Still, questions of prepared sod vs. cultivated sod, site work, irrigation, connecting water and time required for the sod to take and grow imperiled potential baseball in 2023.
“When we first stepped out last week for the first time, it was cool to watch their emotions,” Biggs said. “It's about the kids and seeing them just being like in awe almost because they've never been out here before is the best part.”
The infield grass looks like Fenway. No more drainage issues. Reasonable outfield distances, unlike at makeshift home Bridebrook Park, where it’s a $10 Uber to the gaps.
“A dream. Wonderland,” said East Lyme senior Blake Biggs, who grew up on this field as his dad coached. “It means everything. All of us seniors hadn’t played here since Babe Ruth, which was seventh and eighth grade. We've been waiting since sophomore year. We’ve been waiting to get back home. It's all we want.
“At the beginning of the season, we had hope, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. So I was ready to grind down at Bridebrook. The town does as well as they can down there. But there’s bad hops, soccer going on in the outfield while we play and sometimes, they even didn’t get the field ready for us. And the wind? Blows everywhere. The dimensions? To dead center, it’s 400. Half of (teammate) Gavin O'Brien's hits would have been out this field. But not there.”
Then there’s the underrated convenience of proximity.
“The biggest challenge with Bridebrook is getting kids down there safely,” Jack Biggs said. “We always had a bus going there, but some kids drove. We had to get all the equipment there. Also the time commitment. We can walk out of school and we’re here. And then you understand Bridebrook is a town facility so carving ourselves a little piece of the pie down there was hard.”
How popular is the new/old field? The hops are better, the dimensions more reasonable. It’s home. Even the geese have returned, which creates new challenges, given what geese specialize in.
“What the geese do — it doesn’t encourage you to dive,” O’Brien said.
A more cynical fellow might suggest the geese are merely mimicking what the town did to the program for many years. But now the de facto lifeless lawn at East Lyme High will have a baseball game on it Wednesday. And many more to come.
“We’d have liked it to be ready sooner,” O’Brien said, “but better late than never, right?”
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro