For Vineyard Little Leaguers, tournament play is a mainstay of the summer when travel teams of All-Stars compete across the Cape each week. Beginning next year, as work progresses on the organization’s Penn Field project in Oak Bluffs, the Vineyard may at last be able to compete as a home team during the summer.
“On the Vineyard, it’s always been that we go off-Island for every tournament,” said Phil Regan, whose twin sons Jared and Jeremy play for the All-Star team in the summer and the Red Sox during the Little League regular season. Mr. Regan works at Hutker Architects and is the coordinator for the Penn Field project. He previously worked on the Field of Dreams project at the regional high school, which culminated in the facility where the high school team and the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks play.
In order for a Little League organization to host tournaments they must have use of two legitimate fields, Mr. Regan said. The Veira Park and Penn Field facilities would satisfy that requirement.
Penn Field includes one game field and a smaller practice field, with a parking area set well out of the way of errant fly balls. The property was seeded last fall. John Keene of John Keene Excavation donated the labor to clear the access road and regrade the site. Mr. Keene was then hired by Little League to bring in soil — about 2,200 cubic yards of topsoil in total.
“This summer we hope to get [irrigation] complete, and by spring 2014 we’ll have a solid playing surface,” Mr. Regan said. Dugouts, a weather shelter, fencing and a scoreboard will be the finishing touches.
“You’ve got to let the grass settle in...for a year or two,” Mr. Regan said. That way, “hops” in the playing surface can be avoided.
At the Oak Bluffs annual town meeting in 2008, residents voted to allow Little League to use half of a piece of town-owned property behind the wastewater treatment plant. A warrant article on the special town meeting warrant allocated the earmarked Veira Park funds to the Penn Field facility.
Based on his experiences working at the high school field, Mr. Regan estimated early on that the project would end up costing around $400,000, much more than what was provided by the CPA funds. “The goal this summer is to approach the other towns,” Mr. Regan said. “CPA legislation changed to allow regional funding.”
Martha’s Vineyard Little League also received a $5,000 grant from the Permanent Endowment Fund earlier this year, and a similar grant from Farm Neck. And they have turned to their own funds to kickstart the project, largely money raised through the annual magnet fundraiser and banner advertising at Veira Park.
“What we decided is we would raise some money of our own, that we had banked, and get this going,” Mr. Regan said. “It’s really a community collaboration, and that’s what Little League is all about.”
Read more about the Island's Little League program at Little League Creates Big Memories.