Ah, June, When a Young Man's Fancy Turn to Baseball...
June is a busy time at Riverton Field, as the Barkhamsted Youth Baseball League concludes its season and the Babe Ruth teams begin theirs. Players from 7 to 15 can be found pitching, hitting, and fielding beside the West Branch of the Farmington River, in front of some of the most beautiful backdrops of any field in Connecticut.
The Barkhamsted Youth Baseball League offers boys and girls ages 7-12 an opportunity to play and hone their skills. The BYBL is divided into eight teams. The four lower league teams - the Dodgers, Cardinals, Tigers, and Orioles are made up of primarily 7-, 8-, and 9-year olds. The four upper league teams - the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, and Braves are primarily for 10-, 11-, and 12-year olds. However, there are no hard and fast age rules. Skills and development are also factors that determine when a boy or girl is ready to move from the lower league to the upper. These teams compete against one another at Riverton Field from April until the end of the school year in June.
This year, 92 children took part in the BYBL. In the lower league, the Dodgers reigned triumphant in both regular season play and the playoffs. In the upper league, the Mets bested the other teams in regular season play, while the Braves won the playoffs in June. Once the playoffs are over, Barkhamsted goes on to play Winsted in a best-of-three series. The winner holds bragging rights and the championship plaque for the year. In 2001, Barkhamsted laid claim to the prize, and will display the plaque in the concession stand until next year s tournament.
While the Youth Baseball League season progresses, teens are playing baseball at Northwest Regional # 7 Middle School and High School. When school lets out for the summer, many of these players join one of the Babe Ruth teams that play at Riverton Field. This year, 28 teens formed two teams, one for 13-year olds and one for 14- and 15-year olds. During their season, which runs from mid-June to the end of July, they play teams from neighboring towns.
The adults that make this all possible are the board of the Barkhamsted Youth Baseball League. The current league president is Jim Parrott, and he is joined on the board by Reed Vincent and Tim Height. Running the concession stand this year are Jody Height and Janet Vincent.
2001 is a significant year for Riverton Field and the Barkhamsted Youth Baseball League because another milestone in the construction and maintenance of these fields is now being achieved. Waterless for 16 years, efforts are now well underway to bring running water to the facility. In 2000, a well was dug. At Barkhamsted's annual town meeting in May, voters approved $10,000 of town funding toward the water project. The league board has secured a quote of $11,600 to install a sprinkler system for the facility. The board is also planning to supply running water to the concession stand and to install a hookup so that bathrooms may be built in the future. While the town budget is providing some money toward this project, volunteers will provide the majority of the labor, keeping the costs far below ordinary for such a project.
This level of volunteer spirit might be surprising to some, especially to those outside Barkhamsted, but it is nothing new to the Barkhamsted Youth Baseball League or to Riverton Field. In fact, it was a tremendous outpouring of volunteerism that established this field in the modern era.
In the first half of the 1980s, the Barkhamsted Youth Baseball League was playing games at the Barkhamsted Elementary School. The field there served the purpose, but not as well as league president Richard Langer hoped. He dreamed of more suitable quarters that would allow the league to grow and flourish for the town's children. So his wife Karen, league vice-president, got involved and began hunting for another location. Her quest took her through Town Hall records, where she discovered the deed for an overgrown field on West River Road in Riverton. The property of approximately 5-7 acres was owned by Riverton Post No. 159 American Legion, Inc. and had been used as baseball fields beginning in 1947. But it had fallen into disuse and was destroyed by the 1955 flood. The most interesting thing about the property, however, was that the original deed from Lawrence H. Roberts, Edward Schlapak, and George E. Lewis to the American Legion post stipulated that if the property were not maintained for recreational use, then the American Legion was obliged to turn it over to another organization that would maintain it for recreational use for Riverton residents. It seemed the perfect answer to the Barkhamsted Youth Baseball League's quest for new playing fields!
The discovery of the fateful deed was just the first step in what was to become a long, arduous process for the Langers and the other Barkhamsted volunteers who sought to make the dream a reality. When the Langers brought their idea to the town, politics became an unexpected player. The original idea was for the Town to lease the property from the American Legion and to then sub-let it to the BYBL. As the issue became town-wide and additional people got involved, disagreements arose about who would control what and pay which expenses.
Frustrated by the political wrangling, the Riverton Post No. 159 American Legion, Inc. ultimately leased the property directly to the Barkhamsted Youth Baseball League on May 16, 1985. Richard Langer signed the lease for the league, and Kenneth Pease, Post 159 commander, and Douglas Roberts, post financial officer, signed for the American Legion. The 25-year lease specified payments of $1.00 per year by the league and gave the league "sole right to manage the property" and "to control the use of the property at all times and to allow the Village of Riverton to use the property from time to time for athletic and social activities so long as the Village of Riverton's use does not interfere with the Youth Baseball purposes." With the lease signed, the real work began.
Although the Langers continued working with the Town for permits and approvals to construct the facility, they also worked weekends, along with a host of other volunteers, on the actual construction. Owner of a construction company, Richard Langer volunteered his heavy equipment and skills. He and his wife spent two 10-hour days at the field every weekend throughout the summer of 1985. It was a family effort for the Langers; several of their children helped at the fields, while daughter Jennie cooked, cleaned, and took care of the youngest children at home. In all, the Langers donated an estimated $250,000 of equipment and labor to the project.
But they were not alone, by any means. Tom and Melanie O'Brien hauled away branches, dirt, and wood and helped lay sod with their children, Peter and Erin. Clark and Jennie Schoonmaker and their children, Heather, Scott, and Brian, bought shrubbery for the facility and worked daily to on the fields. Bill Gombos worked from early morning until noon more than 20 weekends, and became assistant manager of the facility. Bob Bergeron, owner of the Pleasant Valley General Store, spent dozens of weekends as well as many weekdays and nights cutting old trees and planting new ones. Harry and Ticia Tubman and their sons Ricky and Billy always called to offer their help and spent time laying sod. Don Stein was a tireless contributor to the effort. Louise and Robert Zematis planned, hauled brush and sod, cooked, built picnic tables, supplied all the carpentry work, and arranged for electricity.
The late Bill Van Allen, to whom the field is dedicated, was instrumental in holding the efforts together. He was one of the original site designers and planners. He documented, completed paperwork, photographed, and compiled a 400-piece photographic record of the entire monumental effort. He was chosen by the league and the volunteers to be field manager of the facility when it was completed.
Together, these citizens of Barkhamsted built the beautiful facility that today graces Riverton. And the remarkable level of volunteerism that brought the dream to life has continued through another generation of youth and parents. This spirit keeps the program running, keeps the facility beautiful, and provides a valuable recreational experience for the town's youth.
Interview with Deborah Brydon, Barkhamsted Recreation Director, July 18, 2001.
Interview with Karen Langer, former Barkhamsted Youth Baseball League vice president, July 28, 2001 and July 30, 2001.
Interview with Jim Parrott, Barkhamsted Youth Baseball League president, August 4, 2001.
Quit-Claim Deed Vol. 32, from Lawrence H. Roberts, Edward Schlapak, and George E. Lewis to Riverton Post 159 American Legion, Inc.
Leasing Agreement between Riverton Post No. 159 American Legion, Inc. and Barkhamsted Youth Baseball League, May 16, 1985.
Letter from Kenneth Pease, Commander, Riverton Post No. 159, American Legion, Inc. to Richard Langer, undated.
Ballfields Get Commission s Sanction; Workers Stress Need for More Volunteers, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Barkhamsted Baseball League Signs Up with Legion to Manage Ball Field, Torrington Register Citizen, May 28, 1985.
Barkhamsted Budget Up 13% to $3 Million, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Barkhamsted to Pay a Portion of New Hartford Ambulance Costs, Torrington Register Citizen, April 18, 1985.
Baseball Field Lease Wins Approval, Torrington Register Citizen, October 15, 1985.
Budget Proposal Comes Under Fire, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Finance Board Fine Tunes Barkhamsted Town Budget, Torrington Register Citizen, April 19, 1985.
League Gets Green Light for New Baseball Fields, Torrington Register Citizen, September 19, 1985.
League Unsure About Ballfield Lease, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
League Wants to Move Ahead with Fields, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Lease "Unwieldy" League Drops Plan, Torrington Register Citizen, September 16, 1985.
Legion Protects Ballfield Investment, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Panel Appointed to Run New Riverton Ballfields, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Rec Chairman Resigns, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Riverton Barely Retains Rights to Baseball Fields, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Riverton Offers the Last Fair Chance, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Selectmen Support Ballfields, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Special Town Meeting Today to Look at Ballfield Issue, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Town and League Make it to First Base in Talks of Who Will Control Ball Fields, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Town Delays Bid for 2 Ballfields, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Planners Ask for More Data from Developer, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Baseball League Wants to Protect Renovated Ball Fields in Riverton, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Donations Filling in Ballfield, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Riverton Playing Fields Shaping Up, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
Residents Celebrate New Riverton Ballfield, Torrington Register Citizen, May 12, 1986.
Barkhamsted Little League Gets New Ballfield, Winsted Courier, May 14, 1986.
Baseball Returns to Riverton, Torrington Register Citizen, date unknown.
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