Volunteers race to finishdugouts in time for opener

Donation used to enhance field

By:Rudy Brandl
   The Manville High School baseball team will play its first home game in beautiful new surroundings this afternoon.
   A brand-new backstop and beautiful new spacious dugouts will grace the Mustangs’ new field of dreams. The MHS diamond is now enveloped by the field’s first dugouts and just the second backstop since baseball began at the high school back in 1958.
   "We’re really happy," said Manville High Athletic Director Pat LaMastro, a former head coach of the baseball team. "It’s going to make a big impact on the baseball program and our community. The community did a nice job."
   The community effort was spearheaded by Manville resident Gregg Snyder, the head coach of the Somerville American Legion baseball team.
   Mr. Snyder accepted a donation of $5,000 from the Somerville American Legion Post 12 and recruited an army of volunteer helpers to do the work.
   The Somerville Legion squad, which now features a combination of Manville and Somerville high school players on its summer roster, used the MHS field for home games last summer. Post 12 didn’t have to pay usage fees for the field like it did when home games were played at White Oak Park, so it decided to make a donation. Somerville Legion commander Ron McClear, who’s very supportive of the Post 12 baseball program, was instrumental in starting the process and handed the check to Mr. Snyder.
   "We wanted to put in a new backstop and the coach’s dream was to have dugouts," Mr. Snyder said. "I never imagined we’d get a donation of $5,000 to do all this."
   The Manville Board of Education came up with money for a new backstop over the winter. Originally, the Post 12 donation was going toward the backstop. Mr. Snyder decided to put the Legion donation toward the construction of new dugouts.
   "Nothing for these dugouts cost the taxpayers anything," Mr. Snyder said. "Everyone that has helped is volunteer — the masons, the labor, people mixing cement and moving block."
The inclement weather in late March put the workers behind schedule and they were still catching up this week to get everything ready for the home opener.
   "It’s long overdue," Mr. LaMastro said. "We haven’t done anything to those fields in a long time. I’d like to thank a lot of people in the community, especially Mr. Snyder for getting all those people to volunteer. It says a lot about the people in our community."
   MHS skipper Steve Venuto also hopes the field will reflect the excellence of his team, which plays its home opener vs. Jonathan Dayton Regional of Springfield at 4 p.m. today, Thursday.