THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE – A baseball revolution in Pittsfield
PITTSFIELD — As soon as he began singing the first few lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” even some fans in the beer line at Wahconah Park rushed back to the stands to hear “the Berkshires’ own” James Taylor.
Taylor, a Stockbridge resident, strode onto the ballfield Monday afternoon, wearing a Pittsfield Colonials cap and carrying his guitar. After singing the National Anthem to formally open the baseball team’s home season, he hung around, signing autographs and talking with Colonial ballplayers and fans.
“What a great ceremony,” said Shawn Considine of Lenox, whose son, Christopher, works at the park. “I’m feeling very grateful that James Taylor came out and opened the season.”
Taylor’s wife, Kim, and Pittsfield guitarist Billy Keane opened the afternoon with a rendering of “God Bless America.” Keane later returned to render “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning.
“You know, this was a very family-oriented afternoon,” said Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto. “We had James Taylor singing the national anthem, his lovely wife, Kim, singing ‘God Bless America’ and their two sons, Rufus and Henry, were honorary bat boys. That was something [Colonials co-owner] Buddy Lewis planned.”
The day was, in fact, a star-studded experience. In addition to the Taylors and Ruberto, Gov. Deval Patrick and his wife, Diane, were also in attendance.
Patrick was one of several luminaries who tossed out the first pitch. He, however, did not stand in the infield and pitch like some of the rest of the dignitaries. He got on the mound, reared back and delivered a high strike.
“I’m a fair-weather [baseball] fan,” said Patrick. “But something like this, I like a lot. I’m thrilled to be here. I’m thrilled for the families here; thrilled at the investment by the city of Pittsfield. That’s what excites me.”
The crowd was not a sellout, with perhaps 70 percent of the seats filled.
“It’s very family friendly,” said David Esko of Dalton, who was at the park with his young son, Daniel.
Esko has been coming to the ballpark for several years. So far, he said, he was impressed by the park and the team.
“It’s great for families because it’s pretty inexpensive, and great for fans because the caliber of baseball is pretty good. There are some good ballplayers out there.”
Lewis, the team co-owner, later lauded the investment and support from the city. He conceded that some residents “are skeptical about coming out to the ballpark and we understand that. But we know that if we provide a nice facility and an entertaining team, the people will come and they’ll bring their friends.”
Ruberto estimated that Pittsfield has invested more than $750,000 into the park. Ernest Fortini, director of Buildings and Grounds for the city, said that the park now features a new infield, new fences, new foul nets, a new public address system and renovated bleachers in left field.
“But among the biggest investments we’ve made are in the restrooms,” he said.
Indeed, the restrooms, where drainage was an issue for many years, were clean and pleasant.
In addition, said Fortini, the drainage in the parking lot has been greatly upgraded. Ruberto said that while the parking lot is still a work in progress, the city plans to fundraise for a final upgrade.
“The perception that the park and amenities are rundown is now a myth,” Fortini said.
To reach Derek Gentile: [email protected] or (413) 528-3660.