The announcement that Meriden will host the 2018 American Legion state baseball championship the week July turns to August at Ceppa Field comes as a dividend for the perspiration equity exerted by the city’s amateur baseball leaders.
From a visibility standpoint, Doug Wedge is the field manager for Post 45, which by Legion rule receives a spot in the tournament as host even if it falls short in win-loss standards.
He and his coaching staff are largely responsible for keeping the game percolating for the young men who either can’t afford, or steer clear of, the pay-dearly-to-play scenarios offered by organizations loosely labeled AAU. His vision and organizational acumen go much farther than that.
“I think it’s positive,” said Wedge, who called the coup the culmination of a five-year vision. “I go back to when I was young and the Babe Ruth program was popular. They had big tournaments at Ceppa and the place was mobbed. It was only Meriden kids playing, but with the Legion, people come from all over the state. Now we’re running with the big guys for hosting the big tournaments. If Meriden is smart, it will put its best face on and really play it up.”
Ed DiPersio spends most waking moments of his life finding suitable college connections for players around the state from both an athletic and academic perspective. Oh, and he doesn’t ask for a thing except to cover the brunt of his expenses. His engine runs on sheeer passion.
Wedge, DiPersio and dozens of others have worked tirelessly to keep Meriden among the better baseball centers in Connecticut. Young ballplayers have prospered as a result, most of them succeeding at the levels DiPersio meticulously earmarks for them. So many return to offer sincere thanks for helping them secure a foundation block for their lives.
“I tell the [Post 45 team] parents, it’s not just about wins and losses,” Wedge said. “My job is to develop them into young men. If they have baseball aptitude and good grades, my job is to get them into college. Wins and losses aren’t going to define who you are. It’s developing young kids.”
Now the less conspicuous, often thankless, work to make Ceppa Field a viable and perhaps sustainable venue for statewide events begins, and the devil is in the details.
Middletown sports impresario Jim Bransfield, among many other things a P.A. announcer of major-league integrity and repute, suggested that little things – mostly related to having a sizeable and enthusiastic volunteer workforce – are what folks will remember.
Wedge, having run Meriden Youth Travel Baseball tournaments running concurrently over four Meriden diamonds with great results, is hip to the minutiae. His friendly demeanor and ability to get along with people has forged amicable relationships with Meriden’s heavy hitters, most notably administrators of the various departments in City Hall. The pathway for success is in place and the stroll isn’t as uphill as it might be.
Legion Field, which doesn’t have the infrastructure to host the tournament, nevertheless represents the passion that drives Wedge, DiPersio and their cohorts. They rebuilt the pitcher’s mound, redefined the basepaths and replaced sod around the infield in the fall. DiPersio can often be found beating back the weeds and manicuring the grounds during growing season.
Procuring the Legion tournament is a just reward for them and the city, so here’s hoping they’ll get whatever grass-roots help they’ll need.
Someone has to keep the scorebook. Someone has to run the press box, which at the moment is sorely missing from the Ceppa facility. The concession stand has to be managed and fully staffed by folks with smiling faces. Someone has to sell tickets and someone else has to take them. A few people need to just walk from place to place making sure the operation is smooth.
Doug is well aware of this, but everybody in town should be, too. The economic impact on the city, particularly the Route 5/South Broad Street retail corridor, could be of significance.
Folks from around the state will be headed our way to support their respective teams. They’ll need coffee and snacks, dining spots that are fast, casual or perhaps a bit more refined and may do some shopping between games.
If you require a blueprint for the economic aspect of this vision, I direct you to the annual TWIST event in Wallingford each August that feeds the coffers for so many. Keep in mind that something of that impact has been nurtured by David Rodriguez and his hard-working troupe at the Wallingford Youth Soccer League over many long and hard hours.
July 27 is seven months away, but the time to act is now. Ask yourself how you can help the people who are out there helping your kids, grandkids and our future leaders gain a foothold in life.
It’s as Wedge says, “The dream has come to fruition. Now it’s time to execute the dream.”
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