Upper Freehold’s diamond in the rough

Where there


Staff Writer

MIGUEL JUAREZ staff Dr. Bob Diamond, of Upper Freehold, shows off the empty lot that the Upper Freehold Regional Men’s Softball League used as a playing field throughout the past season.  MIGUEL JUAREZ staff Dr. Bob Diamond, of Upper Freehold, shows off the empty lot that the Upper Freehold Regional Men’s Softball League used as a playing field throughout the past season. UPPER FREEHOLD — Recreation is not just for kids.

In the past four years, the Upper Freehold Regional Men’s Softball League has grown from 78 players and six teams to 115 players and seven teams.

The league expects to add two more teams next season.

Dr. Bob Diamond was the catalyst for the league’s formation. For his work with the league and township recreation, he has been selected as one of this year’s People Who Make Who A Difference.

About five years ago, Diamond said he wanted to get back into playing softball, something he had not done since playing intramural games in college. A number of other dads whose sons also play Little League baseball expressed interest in the sport so Diamond placed a sign by Byron Johnson Park with information for those wishing to play.

Most of the men who now play in the league are in their 40s and early 50s, but any local men ages 30 and older are eligible, Diamond said. Diamond said 71 percent of the players are from Upper Freehold, with 18 percent from Allentown and 11 percent from other areas. Diamond makes sure that Upper Freehold/Allentown players make up at least 70 percent of the teams, as the league does not want people from outside the area coming in with full teams, he said.

“We want a social atmosphere with local [players],” he said.

While some women have asked about a softball league of their own, Diamond said he does not know if there is enough interest to start a women’s league yet, but he is toying with the idea of starting a coed league.

The current league is active from July through October, with games on Saturday mornings. There are also some weeknight games held in the summer.

The league originally began playing at Byron Johnson Park, but since the fields there are built to Little League standards, the Upper Freehold Regional Board of Education allowed the players to use the middle school softball fields for its games.

When the league needed an additional field, Township Committeeman David Reed told Diamond that it could use a part of his family’s property until the end of this year, which is when the township will take ownership of it. So the league developed a softball field at its own expense even though it won’t have it on a permanent basis.

Diamond said all recreational groups in town should look at the way the league developed the field on the Reed tract. With limited resources and higher taxes, the town may not want to support the massive development of recreational fields, he said.

“Groups should pool their own resources,” he said. “It’s a two-way street between the [recreation] organizations and the town.”

The township has three recreational properties that have not yet been developed, Diamond said. According to him, plans have still not been finalized for the Hudler tract on Wygant Road, the former Miscoski property on Route 539 and the Reed property near the easterly bypass. The township’s Recreation Committee, he said, is in the process of trying to determine the needs of recreation groups in the community to establish which properties would best suit them.

“The town has been good enough to acquire lands,” he said. “[Recreation] groups must help out as much as possible in the process of developing properties.”

Diamond said he realized early on that he would require a more important purpose than just administering the league to make his time commitment to it worthwhile. So, in addition to providing an adult recreational opportunity, Diamond said the league also distributes its excess operational revenue back into the community by supporting local youth organizations.

“To date,” he said, “we have contributed several thousand dollars to organizations such as Little League, Pop Warner Football, scouting and the high school band, to name a few.”

Diamond grew up in Long Branch, attended college at Boston University in Boston and received his degree in optometry from a State University of New York [SUNY] school. He and his wife, Mary Beaumont, an attorney, have resided in Upper Freehold for 14 years and have a 10-year-old son named Avery.

When Avery played Little League baseball, Diamond served as a coach. Since Avery is now more interested in individual sports like skiing and golf, Diamond plans to assist resident Bruce Novozinsky with the newly formed Junior Redbird Golf program next spring in hopes of encouraging more young children to play the sport.

In addition to his recreational duties, Diamond also serves as vice president of the Upper Freehold Township Republican Club.