LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A Sad Day for Northborough Baseball

Three are voted off the Northborough Baseball Association Board.

Written and submitted by Jim Furlong, Northborough 

It’s a Saturday morning in April. Spring is settling in, and if you drive by Memorial Field, you are likely to see three men. Sean Durkin, Craig Murphy and Chet Leonard; these three men have been involved in Northborough Baseball for over 20 years. While most of us are out running errands, or carting our kids around to various activities, these men can be found working on the fields, coaching or umping a game.

About 10 years back, while Algonquin was being renovated, the high school team practiced and played their games at Memorial Field. Craig Murphy could be found there every day, working at the field and getting it ready for the team. He received no awards or accolades. Memorial Field has always been one of the nicest fields in Central Massachusetts due to his efforts. Other towns love playing there.

A couple years ago, when Tahanto High School lost their fields due to construction, they asked Murphy if a couple of their home games could be played there. They chose Memorial.

Unfortunately, a couple of men on the Northborough Baseball Association board don’t care for Murphy’s hard work and years of service. They have recently changed the locks to the equipment shed and refuse to give him a key. In addition, they have taken his name off the account at Rocky’s ACE Hardware. He will not be able to purchase the flowers he plants every Memorial Day in front of the American flag, to honor those who fought for our country. The president is also trying to have Murphy removed as a patched MUABA umpire for Northborough. I guess the president of Northborough Baseball is not interested in bipartisanship at the baseball level.

A sad day for Northborough Baseball.

Chet Leonard is one of the nicest men I have met down at Memorial Field. Leonard played baseball for Algonquin, and it is said he still holds the record for best batting average in a season. Leonard can be found at the Little League field keeping the book, or on the bench assisting Coach Wright and Coach Durkin at a Senior Babe Ruth game. You want to talk baseball? You see Leonard. You want to have someone give your son or daughter an uplifting word of encouragement? You see Leonard.

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Leonard’s sons are all grown up, but you will still find him down at the field every Saturday and Sunday. Leonard was one of the people that sat at the Legion Hall the other night, waiting for the baseball meeting to start, not knowing it was already underway at the library.

A sad day for Northborough Baseball.

I will never forget the time my son was in a game against Marlborough at the Babe Ruth level. Durkin was the coach. There was a boy for Marlborough who ran slower than myself. He hit a ball to the right field, and Durkin hollered to get it to second base. The player in right could have easily thrown the boy out at first base. For every other kid, on both teams, it was an easy single. But this
boy really struggled to get down to first. His team cheered and the boy had a smile on his face from ear to ear. The Northborough players came off the field and asked Coach Durkin, “Why didn’t you yell to go to first?” Coach quickly replied,”That’s not a baseball play.”

It took me a moment to realize what he had done, and why. Coach Durkin does not fool with a young man’s self esteem and confidence to win a baseball game played by boys no older than 15. I was also at the field the day a former player pulled in and asked Coach Durkin for some help with a situation at home. Coach seeing the serious nature of the visit asked me to step away temporarily. They engaged in a lengthy conversation and 15 minutes later the young man left with a big smile on his face. This type of coaching of our young men shows itself all
the time with Coach Durkin.

But don’t get the wrong idea; I have never met anyone more competitive than Coach Durkin. Just ask the six-foot-six, 34-year old he guards in basketball every Thursday night at the Town Hall basketball league. You can’t point at a single project at Memorial Field that Coach Durkin was not a part of. From the lights at Casey, batting cages at Memorial, both scoreboards etc. etc., in my
16 years in town I have not seen anyone who does more than Coach Durkin.

Yet, a few individuals in the Northborough Baseball Association have decided Coach Durkin should no longer serve as board member. They wouldn’t even give him the opportunity to defend his position.

A sad day for Northborough Baseball.

On Tuesday night, a small group of Northborough men voted Sean Durkin, “The Face of Northborough Baseball,” off the baseball board. It’s not so much the vote out that is upsetting, but in the way the president of Northborough Baseball did it. Baseball meetings have been held on the last Monday of the month for longer than I can remember at the Legion Hall in Northborough. But, this meeting was the annual meeting where officers for the next year are voted.

The time and location were changed due to a work conflict; the president of Northborough Baseball would be out of town. So, he changed it. Sean Durkin, the vice president of Northborough Baseball, had a planning board meeting
the same night. He asked for the meeting to be postponed an additional day or two. The president of Northborough Baseball would not extend the same consideration he gave himself and accommodate Mr. Durkin. They brought in a group of young coaches, and for most, it was their first time ever attending a Baseball Association meeting. They voted Sean Durkin off the board. Some older members of the Baseball community, and even one of the Board Members, sat at the Legion wondering if the date for the meeting had been changed. Meanwhile, this new group was underway at the library.

Is this how we treat the men who have done so much for baseball, the fields, and most importantly our kids?

I ask all of you who know the character of Mr. Durkin, or whoever has a child coached by him, to weigh in. Please contact the Northborough Baseball Association’s president and tell him how you feel.

This is not how we treat people in our community. They definitely need to be reminded.

To Mr. Leonard, Mr. Murphy, and Coach Durkin: I hope to continue seeing you working tirelessly for our kids and community at Memorial Field and I thank you for your service.

Chris Cotillo October 06, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Larry October 06, 2012 at 02:00 PM
An EXCELLENT letter. Thank you Jim Furlong for writing such an eloquent letter to let us long time "Townies" know what happened. It was indeed a VERY sad day for a wonderful community. As a member of the committee for The American Legion Post 234 Baseball Team I especially appreciate the great work, and co-operation, we have always received from them. I have no inclination why they would behave in that manner and would respectfully urge the board to reconsider their vote. Coca Cola tried something similar a few years ago, and found out very quickly that it was a huge mistake. Mr Murphy, Mr. Leonard and Mr. Durkin: THANK YOU VERY MUCH for all you have done for so many years, not only for the baseball, but for the entire community. Larry Beatty
E October 06, 2012 at 03:16 PM
We will not go down without a fight. I support "The Face of Northborough Baseball" and I will until the end.
Ed Barr October 06, 2012 at 03:57 PM
My name is Ed Barr and my son has been involved in Northboro baseball from age 6 until high school. I have spent countless hours watching these 3 men selflessly give their time to develop knowledge of and pride in the game of baseball. I saw my son grow to love baseball under their guidance. I still hear "Murph" and "Dirk" mentioned often with my son and his friends. wish to ask other parents with similar experiences what we can do to address this blatant disrespect of three men who deserve better treatment than this. They set an example for our kids. We as parents should do the same. I also ask that the names of those responsible be posted for all to see.
Jennie Neusch October 07, 2012 at 02:00 AM
To Chris Cotillo. You should see if you can repost your beautifully written and heartfelt thoughts here on the patch. It appears as though Northboro baseball did not like the post as it is no longer viewable. Again, I thought that it was just a reflection of your feelings on the matter and you should be able to post your thoughts on a public Facebook page. I think others would like to see what you had to say coming from a player's perspective. Just my opinion! :-)
Jennie Neusch October 07, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Chris - I just saw your link above. Very happy that you posted to the patch also!
Jim Cooley October 07, 2012 at 02:29 PM
What is happening to youth sports in America? My experience playing Northboro Baseball was always positive thanks to the efforts and volunteering of men and women like Mr. Leonard, Mr. Durkin, and Mr. Murphy. I have not heard the "other side" of the story, but why would you not want these men involved in youth baseball? I think it is time for a reality check. BTW...thanks Coach Leonard, "short and quick". That batting advice made me a better hitter.
Michael Cooley October 07, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Does anyone know who the president is or when the next board meeting is? They will probably change it last minute anyways because they are cowards.
Danielle redfern October 07, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Great letters, Jim Furlong and Chris Cotillo, and timely too since spring sign-up is underway. Thank you for letting the community know that this has occurred. This is my son's second year in the league, so unfortunately I don't know the men you mentioned personally. However, I do know the field is beautiful, the town is well-known for their baseball program, and people like them are exactly why we chose to raise our kids in a town like Northborough. Sean Durkin, Craig Murphy and Chet Leonard sound like hard working, compassionate, exemplary role models who love the game of baseball and whom tireless give back to the next generation learning the game. I will reach out to the board, as a parent of a player, to express my dismay and request a review.
Pat October 07, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I don't live in Northborough or know any of the men involved. However, if the letter is accurate and is supported by this many comments, then the board president should reevaluate his poor decisions and put the face of this baseball program back together. The youth of today need these men and it is clear that they have have nothing but positive influences on many. Make the right decision "Mr. President" or give up your post.
Pete J October 07, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Although I never played for these coaches I would like to take a moment to talk about the character of Sean Durkin. Durk has been a role model in my life for 10 years and his commitment to the youth of the Algonquin community has played an integral part in its success. His passion for making people feel good and teaching them valuable life lessons that go beyond baseball has helped shape many of us in a way that leaves you feeling fortunate that this man has been a part of your life. Playing hockey with his boys he instantly reached out to our teams, getting involved, displaying his support, and helping us become successful young men. These actions did not go unnoticed by any of us.
Pete J October 07, 2012 at 05:11 PM
He has taught me, through his way of life, what hard work, commitment, and being a valuable member in society is all about. I saw him two weeks ago at an Algonquin football game and cannot put into words how pleased I was to see his efforts to reach out and communicate with every child who passed by us leaving them all walking away with a smile and the sense that somebody cares about them. These guys have provided the youth of Northboro with a safe place to grow and develop into the future adults of our community and I am saddened to hear that the Baseball community will miss out on what these men have to offer. With Mr. Durkin and his inner circle in our lives we’ve learned what’s expected from this community, how to become those people, and how to contribute to the growth of our town. Since I’ve known Durk, I’ve aspired to be like him and will continue to support him and these other men until Jim Forbush revisits this decision. These men deserve to be a part of Memorial field and Northboro Baseball and frankly the qualities that they bring to our town should leave us all feeling blessed that we have such strong role models in our lives.
Jon E. Lien October 07, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Who serrepticiously votes on 20 year volunteer off a board!? you gotta wonder!! Is this truly "for the kids" ??
John October 08, 2012 at 04:03 AM
When the adults in youth sports even approach the lines of politics, ethics or conflict of interest, kids lose. Programs often get tarnished, lose good people and damage is done over time, but make no mistake the ultimate price is that kids pay the price and lose out. This story might involve many individuals and perspectives, but in the back and forth that emerges, the kids get drowned out and dismissed. It's sad and pathetic. Youth sports boards are a place for collaboration, not conflict. If ANYONE serving on a youth sports board lacks the capacity or maturity to recognize this, resolve conflict in a collaborate way, by their very actions they are not serving the program or its kids. They should atone or leave.
Paul H. Lilley October 08, 2012 at 05:56 PM
I recently moved out to Los Angeles 6 months ago for a promotion I got working for Ryder Transportation. When I heard this news on Saturday from the West Coast I couldn't believe it. In fact it made me cry to think that something like this could happen to three great leaders of our community. As a former captain of the Algonquin Baseball team I have had the pleasure of playing baseball with some fine young men. Many of them have had strong influences from Durkin, Murphy and Leonard including myself. These men not only taught myself and many of our young adults how to play baseball right, they taught us about something much bigger than the sport of baseball. They taught us how to be a good person and do the right thing, whether it was on or off the field. I am forever greatful for the hard work and dedication that Durkin, Murphy and Leonard have provided to myself and our community and can honestly say that each played a role in who I am today. Memorial Field has been my favorite place to play ball since I can remember. The condition of the fields and atmosphere make it one of the best places to play ball in Massachussetts. This is mainly due to the hard work of the three men that have now been removed from the program. I hope that Murphy, Durkin and Leonard will continue to play a large role in the baseball program that has sculpted many of our fine student athletes into the adults they are today. Thanks for everything... Regards, Paul H. Lilley 310-291-6983
Robert Norgard October 08, 2012 at 07:00 PM
This makes me sick that a few, part of a click took this action. I served on the baseball board for years and we NEVER,EVER even for a moment talked of doing this to our members. We were a family and the kids were our concerns and we didn't let any issue within the board to ever get this far. Shame on you, now POLEASE resign yourself. You are not representing OUR kids.
John October 08, 2012 at 07:07 PM
There are politics in every organization; and I will leave the political discussion for another time. I can however attest to the COUNTLESS hours that Mr. Murphy, Mr. Durkin and Mr. Leonard volunteer to make Memorial Field the envy of the area! I live right next to the field complex, and not a day goes by where i do not see at least one, and often times all three men doing something to maintain or improve the fields. Their dedication and commitment to the kids in Northborough is second to none! My son played baseball for a number of years, and during that time, the Memorial Field complex was the envy of the league. When all is said and done, it will take others volunteering several hundred hours a year, or baseball or taxpayers several thousand dollars to maintain this wonderful facility
Postman October 09, 2012 at 03:52 PM
As a parent whose boys will be playing baseball very soon for the town, this is interesting. I say interesting because I don't know the facts and everyone seem fired up. I've read all the posts and comments and haven't read a reason for the changes? Can someone explain why this change was desired by anyone? All I've read are comments of people upset, but none defending the action. I have to believe there was a reason as this type of reaction seemed predictable for people who've dedicated so much time to the program. I need some more info. please.
AG October 09, 2012 at 05:17 PM
From all I have read here there seems to be an absence of due process and this needs a better public explanation to the players and the Town of Northborough almost bordering on illegal, The towns people need an explanation of this on no uncertain terms. This is certainly not a democratic process which was undertaken. This is something which would clearly fall under a civil suit for defamation of character. Yes, more information is needed and in clear open forum under petition.
Susan O'Malley Fahey October 09, 2012 at 05:37 PM
This is horrendous! For someone who grew up in this town, and has recently come back, to read something like this is hard to comprehend. Thanks to Sean, Craig and Chet for their hard work and dedication. This appears to me to be a case of "Chicago Politics" at its best.
Disgusted in Northborough October 09, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Here, here! This is clearly about power and has little, if anything, to do with the kids.
Rod Pfannenstiel October 09, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Amazing to think that the appetite for volunteering in Northborough Baseball could diminish. But with the new collective attitude of those removing three amazing volunteers, how can it not leave a sour taste. Rod Pfannenstiel
Jim Cooley October 09, 2012 at 10:40 PM
The lack of explanation is extremely concerning, especially since this story has been on the Patch for a few days. Nobody has come to the defense of the league or board? Typically in these situations that occurs and there is spirited debate. None here. It makes me think that there is nothing to defend?
Dick Cerasuolo October 10, 2012 at 12:23 AM
I remember Chet from the time my two boys played Babe Ruth baseball at Memorial Field. I don't think I've evere met anyone with more enthusiasm for youth sports . He got me involved in the coaching, too. To hear this news is very disheartening. .Lets have a bring back Chet movement, ,,,Dick Cerasuolo .
Steve Herdman October 10, 2012 at 01:07 AM
I am not sure if everyone is reading all three of the chains on this subject. So I encourage you all to read Jim Forbush's recent editorial response to get some clarity on the facts on how this all transpired. Thanks
Sandra F. Calder October 10, 2012 at 01:18 AM
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: President of Northborough Baseball Speaks Out: http://northborough.patch.com/articles/letter-to-the-editor-president-of-northborough-baseball-speaks-out
ET October 10, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Think it is time to let Patch get back to real news, real articles. Blogs are great but the negativity surrounding these posts are becoming inappropriate and hurtful. THink everyone has the info from both sides now, and it is time to agree to disagree.
Tim Woodford October 10, 2012 at 09:56 PM
shaky October 12, 2012 at 03:24 PM
jon, as an outsider looking in, it looks to me the President is intiminated by Sean, and his longevity with Northboro Baseball. As long as Sean is around, the Pres won't get top billing, and everyone goes to Sean for the answers. As you said, who votes a 20 yr volunteer of their board? And to make it worse, he foolishly mentions Sean leaning on a dumpster, when someone else was working on the field. And then stacks the deck with a 34-4 vote; We had a guy a few years ago in Hudson, Bob Plante. he was involved over 20 yrs, like sean, did everything, including order all the uniforms for every league in youth baseball, we begged him to stay, and he stayed longer than he really wanted, because we knew things were done the right way with him there. If I were Sean, I'd call Mark Chiasson, he has a baseball training center in Clinton, and has AAU teams over there, looking for coaches with Seans ability. Sean, call Chase,,, or nelly, or me 978-833-7598 shaky
Craig Evans October 15, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Coach Durk has been a huge influence on my life on and off the baseball field for many years. I couldn't have asked for a better coach to play for. I have taken it upon myself to create a Facebook page where friends, family and players can voice their support for Coach Durkin. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/128320223983496/ Please share your favorite Coach Durk stories or just show your support by joining. Thank you all and most of all thank you Coach Durkin for everything. Craig Evans


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