For the champion Fairfield American Little League teams, Sunday's dedication of a newly renovated playing-field complex at Gould Manor Park was a dream come true.
Players and coaches, joined by their families and league and town officials, stood on bright green sod under crystal clear blue skies for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by the official first pitch, to kick off Opening Day of the 2012 season. To mark the occasion, 150 limited-edition Opening Day tee-shirts were distributed to players and a set of four Mets tickets raffled off.
"This is a great day for baseball, a great day for Little League and fantastic to see the fields finally done and put in play," said First Selectman Michael Tetreau. "I can't wait for someone to play ball."
The renovations began last August and continued through winter. "The project had the normal speed bumps," said Tetreau. "As much as we didn't get snow, there were delays due to other weather factors. But we got back on track early this spring with the warmer temperatures. Fortunately, the funding for the project was donated 100 percent from Little League fundraising efforts. Our thanks to them for finishing the project for us."
Gerry Lombardo, the town's parks and recreation director, said, "I think the field's layout enhances the park for baseball. Little League did a nice job. We still have a few items to work out, but Little League fulfilled their commitment."
The first game was scheduled to be played at 2 p.m. on one of the two new fields sponsored by Home Depot, said John Sohigian, the president of Fairfield American Little League. He thanked the town for its help in completing the field project. "We should have beautiful fields for years to come. Thanks to the neighborhood, too, for their patience, with regard to all the trucks."
Sohigian introduced the league's various teams, who trotted out as they were called, from the group of 5-year-old Future Stars just beginning baseball and t-ball players, to the Fairfield American 11-year-olds who were 2011 undefeated state champions and Fairfield American 12-year-olds who were 2011 New England region semi-finalists.
To see all the young players brought back memories for Fire Chief Richard. "I was on the first Little League team in 1950, on this field," he said. "It was just one league then, not divided into National and American. Our sponsors were local merchants like Mercurio's Market, Smirnoff's Market in Stratfield and Larry's Bus Service. I was excited for this rededication. The league has grown so much since 1950. They did a fantastic job. This brings back a lot of memories."
There were none happier than the players themselves, however, like pitcher Matt Kubel. "This is really nice, better than the sand lot we used to have here," he said. "Opening Day is always a great event every year, but greater this year because of the new field."