America’s oldest amateur baseball league is back in full swing, as players in the eight-team Boston Park League take the field this summer for the 88th straight season.
“It’s a great opportunity for a lot of players, young and old, to play competitive baseball in Boston,” said Bob Johnson, the league’s vice president, who played in the 1980s. “You’ve got guys going into college, high school players, guys coming out of college. You’re going to see some of the best baseball in Boston every single night.”
A team sponsored by the All Dorchester Sports League, an organization that offers athletic and educational outlets to the neighborhood’s youth, aims to break its 15-year championship drought.
The ADSL team traditionally uses Casey Town Field in Fields Corner— described by organizers as “the hub” of the league since its inception— as their home field. But, in February, one of the light towers at the park toppled over from strong gusts and struck the batting cages. City officials have decided to overhaul the lighting system due to its age, which likely means no baseball at the park in 2016.
“I don’t see it happening,” Park League secretary treasurer and de facto commissioner Walt Mortimer said, adding that he understands that the city of Boston— which owns the park— will be replacing all the light poles.
“Seeing that one was weak, they thought they’d better be safe with the others,” said Mortimer.
The ADSL entry is currently 3-7 on the year.
Meanwhile, the league’s newest entry— a squad sponsored by Norfolk Hardware— is still punching for its first victory in its inaugural season. They remain winless through seven games and have lost by an average margin of more than 12 runs.
“They’re struggling,” Johnson said, “but they’ve got some college players freeing up now, and that should turn things around.”
In its golden age during the 1950s and ’60s, the Boston Park League attracted crowds to the tune of 5,000 onlookers, and former Major Leaguers and college stars have periodically thrown on uniforms. The organization’s popularity has since ebbed, but it’s still a magnet for blue-chip high schoolers and local college players, as well as baseball lifers in their 20s and beyond.
Teams play 32 games at parks and fields all over Boston from late-May through early-August, which means participants carve out as many as four nights per week for baseball.
“It’s a long grind, so you want to make sure you have a good league, competitive baseball players that are dedicated to the sport,” Johnson said. “We’re looking for dedicated players with a love of the game, and that’s what we’ve got.”