As Vice President of the Cheshire Reds youth travel baseball program, Jim Gidicsin recalls feeling encouraged after a meeting two years ago when newly-hired director of the Cheshire Parks and Recreation Department, John Gawlak, brought together youth and adult organizations representatives to talk about the status of their programs.
“He made a master schedule for groups to use the facilities and came up with a list of renovations that he wanted to make in the future,” reflected Gidicsin. “The Parks and Recreation Department made a point to reach out to all of the volunteers to find out what they could do to improve things.”
Recently, Gidicsin enjoyed seeing the local baseball community receive a boost to start the spring season. At the end of the March, the Town of Cheshire had Championship Turf Services, a company based in Harwinton, started work on improving field conditions on the four diamonds at MacNamara Legion Field, located at 550 Wiese Rd.
“It is amazing to have this work done,” said Gidicsin. “In the 15 years that I’ve been associated with Cheshire baseball, we haven’t have the kind of relationship that we have now with the Town.”
Town Manager Sean Kimball explained that the Town Council appropriated funds to be used on Parks and Recreation projects a few years ago. After doing work at places like Bartlem Park and Mixville Park, Kimball was pleased to be able to address conditions at MacNamara Legion Field.
“It is great,” said Kimball. “MacNamara has a long history of volunteerism, with coaches and parents helping to take care of the fields. Before this project, it had been a while since the town had been able to do a large upgrade.”
For the MacNamara upgrade, Championship Turf Services edged and cut grass lines on the diamonds. The company also put in new sod.
“I’m amazed at the job they did,” stated Gidicsin. “There are no longer standing puddles that will take days to dry.”
The Town of Cheshire additionally purchased a new fence that baseball volunteers installed on the MacNamara number 4 field on April 10.
“The fence is temporary at the field,” said Gidicsin. “It will be taken down at the end of the season and then kept for next year.”
During a typical season, Gidicsin said that teams are playing at MacNamara every day of the week. Cheshire Youth Baseball/Cheshire Youth Softball squads play on weeknights and weekends, while the Reds compete on Wednesday evenings and weekend afternoons.
The Reds have five of their six teams playing at MacNamara this year. As the exception, the 13-U squad is competing at Bartlem Park.
When Gidicsin spoke with Kimball and Gawlak last Friday, he raised the possibility of improving conditions at Bartlem as well.
“During our meeting, John and Sean were actually looking to see if there is money left to do more work, but with the capital budget being finalized right now, it will probably need to wait,” Gidicsin said. “We will keep communicating on projects. The coaches routinely volunteer to do regular field maintenance during the year, but we’d like the big work to be done before the season starts.”
“Our public works department does a great job,” added Kimball. “With the capital projects, it feels great to supplement what they do. There are list of things that we want to get to in the future.”
Because of the pandemic, CYB/CYS canceled their traditional spring season last year, but with an improved health situation, teams will return to action starting this weekend.
“Due to COVID and the organization needing to get the green light to play from the Governor’s office, they are starting a little bit later than originally planned,” explained Gidicsin. “Players have been drafted and teams are ready to get started.”
While being a part of CYB, the Reds were allowed to play games last year as long as safety protocols were in place.
“I’m glad to say that we had no incidents with COVID last season,” Gidicsin said.
The Reds have already started the 2021 season with precautionary measures still in place.
“You don’t have to wear masks on the field, but you need to have them on the bench,” stated Gidicsin. “We have marked out 6-feet spaces for people to sit down and there are also hand dispensers to keep everyone safe.”
In contrast to recreational CYB teams, the Reds ask that youngsters try out for age 8- through-13-and-under teams and also travel for games outside of town.
“We have tryouts in the fall and then start winter workouts in January of the next year,” said Gidicsin. “The season begins in April and runs through the end of July. After a break, we pick back up with fall ball.”
Gidicsin said that the Reds have approximately 66 players this year. In most years, squads play between 30 to 40 games.