PAWTUCKET — It was a day to put the political quagmire on the backburner and, instead, pick up a rake, a paint brush, a bag of quick-dry substance, and bestow a little tender love to a local Little League field.
Carl DeLuca Field received a noticeable facelift as the Pawtucket Red Sox and the City of Pawtucket partnered with the non-profit organization “More Than a Game” to spruce up the playing surface and surrounding infrastructure.
Getting down and dirty was the underlying theme to Monday’s community-centric endeavor. PawSox infielder Mike Miller brought his crew from “More Than a Game” to the home of Fairlawn Little League with an equally strong turnout on hand from the club’s front office and intern pool.
The tasks were aplenty.
Between fixing the lips that were omnipresent throughout the infield, applying a fresh coat of paint to the wood-rotted bleachers behind home plate, putting down additional clay in the batter’s box and on the mound – those Little Leaguers who like to really dig in will certainly be appreciative – and gathering up oversized grass, the small army made sure to leave not so much as a pebble out of place.
“A lot of work went into this,” Miller said as Monday’s nearly six-hour landscaping mission neared its completion.
The same sentiment can also be applied to the relationship between the PawSox and the city where they play their home games.
The team’s current ownership group has worked tirelessly to reconnect with Pawtucket after the 2015 plan to move to a downtown Providence ballpark was dealt a death knell by state officials. The busy-as-a-bee mentality that was on full display at DeLuca Field epitomized what can happen when the city and the club come together and work towards achieving a common goal – one where Pawtucket greatly benefits.
In the wake of last week’s statement from the PawSox that it will now respond to other cities who seek to present proposals for potential ballpark sites, there’s no guarantee that another Pawtucket-based Little League field will someday receive the same blue-ribbon treatment as DeLuca Field. All the goodwill that’s been built up the past few years would vanish should the PawSox relocate outside Pawtucket.
“We have three Little League organizations in the city with roughly 700-800 kids participating. I know for a fact that a lot of them go to PawSox games,” said Kenny Jacques, president of Fairlawn Little League. “It would be a huge loss for the kids if the team were to leave.”
Jacques said he was contacted by the city that Miller planned to spend a portion of the three-day Triple-A All-Star break refurbishing DeLuca Field. Standing in the parking lot located behind Nathanael Greene Elementary School, Jacques couldn’t help but smile as he watched a sea of volunteers wearing red T-shirts – those from the PawSox staff sported the “Pawtucket is Home” shirts that were distributed during the release of the ballpark proposal at Slater Mill on May 16 – tend to a field that’s in far better shape than when the legion of dedicated workers arrived at 9 a.m.
“It’s a privilege to have this done,” Jacques said. “It was already a nice field. To make these kinds of improvements is simply amazing.”
A 2012 11th-round draft pick of the Red Sox who’s now in his third straight season with the PawSox, Miller partnered up with “More Than a Game” last offseason. Two Little League fields in his native California have already received the Midas touch. A ballfield in Hawaii has already been targeted as this offseason’s top priority.
“I thought it was important to give back to the community we play in and try and grow baseball in the city,” Miller said. “Marshall (Murray, founder & CEO of “More Than a Game”) always says that the most precious thing you can give is your time because it’s the one thing you can’t get back.
“When you have an opportunity to give back to the community where you live and work for half the year, it’s about doing what you can and reaching out,” Miller added.
Local youngsters will have a chance to see firsthand the improvements at DeLuca Field when Miller and the PawSox present a free youth clinic on Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03