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Opening day brings a lot to celebrate for Griswold softball, including a new field

Griswold — Erin Palonen, Griswold High School's principal, lost track of how many times she has seen the school's softball coach, Rick Arremony, pull his truck down to the softball field, only to see a tractor materialize a few moments later.

"There's a level of maintenance of a field. Rick multiplies that by 100," Palonen said.

It was springtime in Griswold on Saturday. The temperature touched 70 and the softball team opened the season with a 15-0 victory over Eastern Connecticut Conference Small Division opponent Windham in a game shortened to six innings.

After a year away due to COVID-19, there was a lot to celebrate before the first pitch was even thrown, though, mainly Arremony's dedication to a renovation project which gave the softball field a facelift, including new dugouts, a new press box and a brand new sound system just installed Friday.

Arremony, who nicknamed the Wolverines' home field the "Field of Dreams" as he was raising money for the renovations, cut a ceremonial ribbon prior to the game. He was given a plaque — dated April 7, 2020, as the field was scheduled to open last season prior to the pandemic — in appreciation of his efforts.

Arremony, in his 15th season as Griswold's head coach, was joined by Griswold superintendent Sean McKenna, board of education members Marty Osga and Jaimee O'Neill-Eaton and Palonen, who is both a former player and a former assistant coach under Arremony.

In addition, Arremony's daughter Stephanie (Arremony) Efthimiou, the 2004 Gatorade Connecticut Player of the Year while pitching for Griswold, threw out the first pitch with her dad as catcher and Arremony's grandchildren George, 7, and Ariana, 4, instructing the teams to "play ball."

"They told me they were having a ribbon-cutting ceremony. That's all I knew," Arremony said. "Very nice. A nice, nice job. That was great (to have Stephanie throw the first pitch); it's been 20 years since I caught for her, 15 years."

Arremony explained his detail to the field, which he has always spent time tending and which has hosted the ECC softball tournament for the last several years.

"When I do something, I like to give it my all," he said. "I want the players to be the best. I want the field to be the best. I want to be the best. ... Before we had a 5-foot by 15-foot dugout. Now they're really nice. I had this want to do it for a long time. Wayne Falco — I get to know the moms and dads — he said, 'I'll help you.'"

"I love the field. It's got a homey feel, you know?" said Griswold junior pitcher Kaelin Waldron, who threw a two-hitter in the win over Windham. "It's (Arremony's) other home. He literally lives here. I'm beyond thankful for coach Arremony and everything he does for the program."

Waldron struck out 13 and walked none in her first career start as the Wolverines' pitcher. She served as Griswold's designated hitter as a freshman due to a back injury, now follows her sister Maya, a 2018 grad, to the pitcher's mound.

Waldron was also 3-for-3 with two doubles and two RBI and Samantha Falco was 3-for-4 with four runs scored. Sonja Matheson had a triple, double and two RBI and sophomores Adrianna Morabito and Makayla Neilson had two hits each.

Hailey Cruz and Izzy Perez had hits for Windham.

Griswold, which won the 2018 ECC tournament and was a finalist again in 2019, has just 10 players in the program following the year away, but Arremony said the Wolverines have made great strides.

"I wish I would have filmed the first day of practice," Arremony said, "we were learning to catch fly balls, we were reluctant to slide ... just so the kids could see how far they've come."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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