WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – While statistics and probability are often associated with baseball in this age of sabermetrics, there is no doubt when it comes to the future of the sport in the Whip City.
Babe Ruth League, Inc. officials awarded Westfield as the host city for the 2016 Babe Ruth 14-Year-Old Series.
“We are honored to be going to Westfield with our 2016 Babe Ruth 14-Year-Old World Series,” Babe Ruth League Vice President/Commissioner Robert Faherty said. “I was not only impressed with their community, but was also amazed by their commitment to youth.”
Community support, the playing facility, and a headquarters hotel are main factors used in reaching a decision on host sites.
“We also look for areas that in addition to offering a competitive athletic experience, can also offer a diverse cultural and educational experience,” Faherty said. “Westfield has all of these elements and more. The 2016 Babe Ruth 14-Year-Old World Series will be a fun and memorable time for all.”
Faherty said he “was blown away” by the commitment shown from longtime Westfield Babe Ruth League President Dan Welch, board members, city officials, local business leaders, and others, such as athletic directors Karen Gomez (WHS/WVTHS) and Richard Lenfest (WSU), who attended meetings in support of the event.
Several of those individuals were also in attendance at yesterday’s official announcement, via conference call with Faherty at Amelia Park Ice Arena.
“This a home run for us,” Welch said.
For young ballplayers, it may be more like a grand slam.
The decision will likely have a ripple effect as the decision will put into motion a series of capital improvement projects to Bullens and Jachym fields that Ruthers and high school players will enjoy for decades to come.
Plans call for bleacher-style seats to be installed along the large concrete steps located behind home plate at Bullens Field, state-of-the-art LED lights to replace the ones currently housed on the light poles, and fencing to be brought in along the third base line. It is possible the press box area could be expanded. The entire park is expected to be handicap accessible per the Americans with Disabilities Act by game time in 2016.
According to Karen Gomez, athletic director for Westfield and Westfield Vocational-Technical High Schools, there are also plans to install dugouts at Jachym Field and expand seating there as well.
“All three high school athletic programs (Westfield, Westfield Voc-Tech, St. Mary) will benefit (from this decision),” Gomez said.
Westfield Mayor Daniel M. Knapik has said the city will put those projects out to bid next summer. “I think it’s phenomenal for the city,” said Westfield Post 124 American Legion Baseball coach Don Irzyk, who is known throughout the baseball circuits for his legendary play in the Tri-County League throughout the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. Irzyk is currently the athletic director at Pathfinder Regional High School in Palmer, where he also coaches varsity baseball and football.
In order to host a Babe Ruth World Series, the host city is expected to raise upwards of $125,000 by the local Babe Ruth League. Major corporate sponsors have already pledged more than $70,000, Welch said.
During the last three years, two teams from the Whip City – the 14-Year Old All Stars in 2014 (Ocala, Fla.) and the 13-Year-Old All-Stars in 2012 (Kitsap County, Wash.) – have earned trips to World Series.
Bullens Field serves as the home ballpark for Westfield, Westfield Vocational-Technical, and St. Mary high schools, and Westfield Babe Ruth Baseball. There have been several state and regional Babe Ruth tournaments over the course of the last decade, and a Vintage Base Ball World Championship was held at the park in 2008.
Media Credit: The Westfield News