Jaywalking: Frontier dugouts a community affair

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Frontier Regional School baseball and softball fields have received significant upgrades since last fall.

If you take in a baseball game at Valiton Field or softball game at Zabek Field in South Deerfield this spring, it will not take long to notice the changes because four dugouts have been built, thanks to generous local donations. On April 15, the baseball and softball teams will hold a noontime ceremony wth a ribbon-cutting and cookout. The event is open to anyone interested in attending.

The addition of dugouts has many around the school excited for the season to get underway.

“To be honest, when the other teams show up, that’s going to be the first thing they see and they’re going to be like, ‘Man, what a place,’” Frontier coach Chris Williams said. “It makes the whole atmosphere better.”

Thedugouts concept was hatched last season by Frontier assistant coach Dave Faytell. Faytell has taught at Frontier for 10 years but was in his first year as an assistant varsity coach. He noticed that many of the other Hampshire League teams had dugouts and Frontier did not.

“You start the season with a lot of cold, rainy days and end it with a lot of hot, sunny days, and I noticed that at home, we were victims of the elements,” Faytell said. “A dugout not only keeps you out of the elements, it also keeps the team together.”

Simply having an idea to build dugouts may seem nice, but it’s likely that plenty of people have thought, “Gee, dugouts would be nice at these fields,” in the past. Making it a reality is where it gets tricky. The cost of building materials alone far exceeds the school budget.

“Even when I was playing at Frontier, I recognized that we take baseball seriously, but if you go to a place like Vets Field in Greenfield, it’s very impressive because of the dugouts,” Williams said.

Faytell decided to try and get the ball rolling to get dugouts built, but it was not going to come easy or cheap. That’s where Deerfield Academy came in. Deerfield has been a great neighbor when it comes to helping the community. Over the years, the Deerfield grounds crew has done plenty for the athletic community, helping to redo the 60-foot youth diamonds and the softball field at the base of Mt. Sugarloaf, while building dugouts and helping with the fields at Herlihy Park to name a few things. All of that was accomplished without labor fees.

Brett Gewanter, who works on the grounds crew and whose twin sons are seniors on the Frontier baseball team, approached his bosses with the idea for the crew to build the dugouts and he was again given the green light.

“My bosses, Chuck Williams (head of the physical plant) and Keith Finan (Chief Financial Officer) have given me the flexibility to do these projects,” Gewanter said. “They recognize how important it is for us to be players in the community.”

That meant that the Frontier baseball and softball teams needed only to raise money for materials, which still put the price tag at $17,000 (although it would have easily been more than double that if they were paying for labor). Faytell, along with Gewanter, Williams and softball coach Carrie Fydenkevez, formed the Friends of Frontier Baseball and Softball, and the four began a fundraising campaign. Faytell had undergone major fundraising campaigns in the past, and was able to lead the charge.

And local businesses heeded the call. The Friends of Frontier Baseball and Softball got a number of donations from area businesses and other people, but the major contributors were the South Deerfield Polish Club, Goulet Trucking, All-States Materials, Triple B Blasting, Grybko Enterprises, Davenport Trucking, Teddy Bear Pools and Moody Machine & Fabrication.

“We could not have done it without the generosity of local businesses,” Faytell said.

Frontier principal Darius Modestow said he appreciated all those who helped make it possible, especially the area prep school.

“We want to thank Brett Gewanter and Deerfield Academy for their continued support,” he said. “They’ve taken our fields to the next level.”

The Friends of Frontier Baseball and Softball knew they were going to hit their goal this past fall and construction of the dugouts began and continued during warm spells in the winter before finishing up this spring.

“Dugouts enhance the fields for sure,” Deerfield athletic director Marty Sanderson concluded. “They are poured concrete and well-constructed. They are beautiful.”

A nice addition to a proud program.

Something caught my attention over the weekend after Geno Auriemma and the UConn Huskies lost in overtime to Mississippi State Friday night was that one of the Bulldogs’ players has a connection to the area.

Chinwe Okorie may be a name you remember reading in our Bulletin Board section five years ago when she starred at Stoneleigh-Burnham School. The Bulldogs’ senior center hails from Lagos, Nigeria, the largest city in that country, and she was recruited to play basketball at Stoneleigh-Burnham by former athletic director Jeff Conlon, who is now the athletic director at Cape Cod Academy. In a story written earlier this year by The Clarion-Ledger, Okorie said that when Conlon called her family, she had only just begun playing basketball, but was playing competitively for The Learning Field School in Nigeria. She said that the family had hesitations about her moving to the United States.

“He could have been anybody,” Okorie said of Conlon. “My mom feared it may be sex trafficking, or something like that, but the more I learned about it, the more it was something I wanted to do.”

Okorie was recruited to play at Mississippi State while at Stoneleigh-Burnham and has had a nice career. Okorie started 33 games this season and has averaged 7.7 points per game, according to the Bulldogs’ website. She has averaged 5.4 rebounds per game, and has 20 blocked shots.

And she will always be able to say that she was on the court when the mighty Geno fell.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com. Like him on Facebook and leave your feedback at www.facebook.com/jaybutynski.