Jaywalking: Legion upgrades baseball press box

  • Mowry & Schmidt’s Bob Provost, left, and Legion Baseball chairman Bill Phelps are all smiles displaying an American Legion plaque in front of the new Vets Field press box built with Legion funds. recorder staff/dan little

  • Mowry & Schmidt’s Bob Provost and Legion Baseball chairman Bill Phelps are all smiles holding an American Legion plaque out in front of the new Vets Field press box with Legion funds. recorder staff/dan little

Monday, June 18, 2018

If you’ve happened to drive past Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield over the past couple of weeks, you may notice that the baseball field is getting a facelift of sorts.

Thanks to a very generous donation from Greenfield American Legion Post 81, the press box and storage shed are brand new.

Anyone who has announced or covered a game at Vets Field knew that the press box was one of the least sturdy around. The ladder to climb up to the box felt just about safe enough that it could crumble as you climbed it, and the inside of the booth was not all that big or comfortable. In fact, I don’t know if I can remember ever covering a game at Vets when a media member sat in the box. It was usually reserved for the public-address man announcing the game, and possibly a platform for which Trevor Kuchieski could sing the National Anthem. In fact, the young son of Greenfield High School athletic director Mike Kuchieski was one of the few people who probably felt safe climbing to the top of the box.

“It seemed like the ladder got a little steeper and the hole got a little smaller over time,” said Legion Baseball chairman Bill Phelps.

Phelps, who served 22 months in Vietnam while serving for the United States Special Forces Green Beret, has a long history on the local baseball scene. Phelps graduated from Greenfield in 1965 before going off to war. He returned home after two tours and has been involved with local baseball ever since. He coached the now-defunct Greenfield Community College baseball team, and has been involved with the Legion program for 35 years, since he revived it from the dead.

Phelps is now a big part of the Legion, serving as its financial officer, and the organization had funds to donate after selling off the old Legion building behind the Green Fields Market on Main Street in Greenfield. The old Legion building now serves as a marijuana dispensary. Phelps wanted to use some of the money from the sale for Vets Field upgrade. Originally, he proposed building a stairway, but it was determined that to do it correctly, the entire building needed to be taken down and rebuilt.

“I brought it up to the Post,” Phelps recalled. “I said, ‘Let’s do something for Vet’s Field.’”

The former press box and storage shed was built by current Greenfield High School coach Tom Suchanek roughly 25 years ago, but Phelps recognized that upgrading the press box and shed would seriously alter the look of Veterans Memorial Field and turn it into one of the nicest facilities in the area. The Legion hired Mowry & Schmidt to work on the project, and Bob Provost and Phelps went to work on designing the new facility.

The former press box was taken down and Phelps got to keep its ladder as a memento. The shed now has separate 9 by 12-foot storage areas for both the high school and Legion teams. Above the storage shed sits the press box, which is 12 by 18 feet and has a beautiful staircase leading up to it on one side. The box also has a top-of-the-line sound system, so no more static-filled game announcements.

As for the Legion itself, it still exists despite not having a building to call home. Members hold their monthly meetings in the basement of Smitty’s Pub.

And even if the Legion eventually dissolves, it will never be forgotten. Just like the field, which was donated to the town of Greenfield by the veterans who returned from World War II, the baseball press box will always be a reminder of the men who served our country by bearing the name of the Legion club that paid for the project.

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.