I was sitting in the auditorium for Town Meeting, circa 1985, as a vote was taken
allowing an expenditure to convert an old DPW garage, (one bay, one story cinderblock), on East Main Street, into a more serviceable building for Northboro Baseball. The amount of money allocated seemed inadequate for the addition of the snack bar and full second story, so I contacted the president of Northboro Baseball and offered my assistance in this project.
Excavation for footings, pouring concrete frostwalls, slabs and sidewalks ensued. Banging nails was Jim Cooley, and we were able to come close to completing this project.
This formula of collaborative volunteer effort proved enjoyable and efficient, and so we employed the same method on the concession stand at Algonquin with Dave Bergstrom, and subsequently the snack shack at Ellsworth-MacAfee with Ron Aspero. Local guys working hard to benefit local kids and the community.
Fast forward 20-plus years and I was working with Eagle Scout candidate, Chris Leonard, to complete the building I had worked on so many years before! Taping drywall, sanding, painting, installing lights and baseboard heat, (Thank you, Dave Pasco), many laughs, days and weeks later, Northboro Baseball/Softball had a new equipment room. The smiles of contentment for a job well done, satisfaction and pride of accomplishment I saw in the faces of all the volunteers involved was truly inspiring. I could not believe the threads of my connection, enjoyment and involvement with Northboro Baseball had so quickly and seamlessly encompassed over two decades.
One thread was abruptly severed on a cold rainy night in October, at a meeting I could not attend, at a location not known to me or others, by a group of people I thought I knew.
The musical chair nature of moving an already sitting board member into the seat of a willing albeit absent longtime board member bespeaks of complicity at best and duplicitousness at worst, (historically, most boards vote you into a position when not present!). When in doubt as to the circumstances surrounding such an event, trust your nose, not the plaintive yappings of those involved.
A few days later, I was at Memorial Field awaiting the arrival of my team of High School players as they slowly straggled in for early morning practice. They seemed unusually quiet and subdued, even for Saturday morning. One finally spoke, expressing surprise to me at the field, ready to coach the game as he and the others had heard that I had been removed from Northboro Baseball. They were concerned, anxious and upset. Remember, in their world you get removed from a class, a club, or team, for doing something wrong. They all wanted to know why.
Since I had not and have not yet received any notice, calls, emails or correspondence of any sort from any member of the new, open, transparent and responsive group now in charge, I had no ready answer.
Perhaps it had to do with my concerns that a growing number of board members, league coordinators and coaches are involved, or have children involved, in AAU programs.
Perhaps it has to do with my belief that we owe our daughters the same opportunities to enjoy involvement in organized athletics as we do our sons, as
it seems softball trends more to area select and travel teams instead of
recreational programs. Perhaps it has to do with my concern that Little League is the engine that drives the organizational bus, demanding more time, energy and resources, perhaps at the expense of other age groups. Perhaps it had to do with my concern regarding checkbooks chipping away at the fabric of volunteerism in the organization. All points worthy of discussion, I believe, a discussion in which I may now be precluded from participating. Be that as it may.
The other threads were not and will not be severed. The thread of the love of the game, of competition, of being a part of a team. The thread of sportsmanship, of fair play, of cooperation, of having a common goal and striving to achieve it.
The thread of meeting and coaching young adults as they learn teamwork, perseverance, disappointment and dedication. Perhaps the most important thread of all, that of relationships formed and nurtured through participation in the magnificent game of baseball. Lifelong relationships with players, parents, families and volunteers.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank some of those people whose spirit and dedication to the game, the participants and the organization stand above and beyond, threads now completely, intricately and richly woven into the tapestry of my life.
I thank and acknowledge presidents past, real men of leadership, whose vision and dedication were so instrumental in guiding Northboro Baseball/Softball.
Paul Whittier initiated conversation and cooperation with other youth organizations, especially soccer, to minimize conflicts of schedules which enabled so many youngsters to enjoy both activities.
Rick Hagen tirelessly worked to improve all aspects of NBSA for many years as coach, fundraiser, treasurer and registrar, building and maintaining the exemplary program we still enjoy.
John Farrell guided the recent organization to stability in establishing new playing fields and setting in motion the financial resources to maintain these fields and programs.
What do you call someone who so easily put a personal touch into the often arduous task of fundraising for so many years, ensuring the financial stability of the organization, as needs and budget grew? I call her my friend, Sharon Evans. Thank You, Sharon. I am so sorry that your last memory of NBSA may be the final meeting you attended. You deserve so much more.
What do you call someone who so graciously operated the snack bar all these years, spending so many evenings, (weekends, too!), at the shack when other “volunteer” missed their assignments? I call him my friend, Dave Gillespie. Thank You, Dave.
What do you call a man of great humor, warmth and integrity, who schedules umpires for all games NBSA, baseball and softball, often relying on his three sons to plug the assignment gaps with their Dad? I call him my friend, Dave Gobron. Thank You, Dave.
What do you call an oft irascible, complex, moody, witty, acerbic, at times argumentative, selfless, poetic, intelligent man with a soft spot in his heart for the great game of baseball and especially the field upon which it is played? I call him my friend, Craig Murphy. Thanks, Murph.
What do you call an individual whose sense of fair play and right and wrong would not allow him to ignore a situation so obviously and needlessly slanted? I call him Jim Furlong, my friend. Thanks, Jim.
It is extremely humbling, embarrassing even for me to read all the comments, letters, phone calls, (I know you don’t “read” phone calls), and emails directed towards me during the last few, tumultuous days. I feel a little like Huck and Tom peering through the balcony at their own funeral. Or, in my case, an Irish wake. I am incapable of thanking all of you for your too kind words and feelings, both on my behalf, and more importantly on behalf of Northboro Baseball.
And finally, the strongest thread of all, one which shall never be severed, is the special relationship developed over so many years with so many players, former and present, including my sons, Sean and Connor. Simply put, they are the reason I so enjoy doing what I do, and will continue to do, (running them into outs on the basepaths), coaching baseball. If given a choice to work with some adults, or most kids, the kids would win every time.
Thank you all so much.
Written by Sean Durkin, Northborough