The brand new look of Walsh Field

Jun 18, 2020 by

THE NEW backstop at Walsh is 40 feet high. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

Published in the June 18, 2020 edition.

By DAN PAWLOWSKI 

WAKEFIELD — Baseball has been a long time coming.

The good news is that players and fans in Wakefield will get to enjoy brand new features at Walsh Field if and when baseball returns this summer. 

The town has been working on renovations to Wakefield Memorial High School’s baseball field since the fall. 

A $200,000 budget was approved through Town Meeting last year and despite a mound of obstacles including a pandemic and poor weather during the spring, the town is hopeful to be playing baseball on Walsh in July.

The most obvious change to the field is black netting running alongside the first and third base line to protect fans. It runs 30 feet down each line. 

According to Wakefield’s Cemetery, Forestry, and Park Divisions Supervisor Dennis Fazio, the netting, eight poles and construction accounted for the majority of the budget. 

The backstop at Walsh needed to be adjusted for a multitude of safety reasons the most glaring of which was the amount of foul balls flying onto the Dobbins Tennis Courts. While the town’s summer baseball players, be they Wakefield Merchants, Twi League or Babe Ruth teams, have cultivated a strong skill set of reading a foul ball and warning tennis players with a “Court!” or a “Heads!” a change was still necessary.

The best way to accomplish that was to move the backstop closer to the field. Fazio and the town did that by about seven feet. Then they reconstructed the field, scrapping the old diamond and moving home plate another eight feet toward the backstop which makes it a total of 15 feet closer together than before. 

The all-netting backstop is 40 feet tall. A taller and closer backstop will cut down the angles for foul balls leaving the field.

The diamond was in dire need of at least a makeover. With the decision to start from scratch, Fazio and the town brought in Sports Turf Specialties, Inc. a company specializing in field reconstruction. This wasn’t a rake it up and throw some dirt down job. Walsh was stripped, engineered and pitched to optimize drainage, rebuilt from the root zone and topped with a composite clay/dirt and pitcher’s mound clay that makes the infield look and feel if not like Fenway Park then at least like a baseball field in Iowa made by a farmer for ghosts.

In other words, it’s beautiful.

Sod was then put down everywhere except the outfield which was reseeded. The sod has taken nicely and isn’t burning despite the direct sun it gets all day. Part of that is the constant watering required to make sure the roots take hold.

Sod should typically be left alone for at least a few weeks, especially considering the spikes baseball players often use these days. Fazio is hopeful that the timelines between when the CDC and state allow leagues to resume and when the grass will be 100 percent ready coincide around the same time. 

The new diamond passed a test from Mother Nature last week during a downpour June 11. Fazio said 30 minutes after the rain there wasn’t a single puddle.

Additionally, new fencing was put up, not only along the perimeter of the field, but also in front of the dugouts to account for new MIAA guidelines that encourage coaches to stay inside dugouts. 

New pavement along the sides of the field near the bleachers is also forthcoming. 

It was certainly a massive overhaul, the construction and digging for each pole especially tedious with another hurdle in avoiding old drainage pipes from the original construction of the field in the ‘70s. 

In the end, the new backstop, netting, fences and diamond have come together to create a newer, safer Walsh with the same old town feel. 

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