Relic stadium under rising waters

SPECIAL TO THE CBB

By: Michael Radomski

andreoli-burk-stand2 (PITTSFIELD, MA) – Wahconah Park is one of the oldest and most historic baseball stadiums in America. Fans have seen organized baseball on this site since 1892 and have witnessed future major leaguers in their prime on the way to the Major Leagues.

Hall of famer Carlton Fisk played at Wahconah Park in 1969 for the Red Sox minor league affiliate and future hall of famer Greg Maddux did the same for the Cubs in 1986.

The ballpark has also seen many famous visiting players as well, but now Wahconah Park is making history with a few new visitors.

What once was a touristic attraction for many sports fans, has now turned into a tourist attraction for water sports.

Wahconah Park has turned into the eighth wonder of the world and possibly the sixth ocean on the atlas following a torrential rainstorm last night that left the park underwater.

With over four inches of rain falling last night in Pittsfield, Wahconah Park has become so hard hit with water that you need a surfboard or a powerboat to get close to the park.

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The field is currently used by the Pittsfield American Defenders of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL), who have occupied Wahconah Park since 2004.

Players and coaches stopped by the field today to truly witness the situation. The team was away yesterday in Vermont for a road game and arrived back to a flooding parking lot. Shortstop Zach Williams (Judson Univ) stepped off the bus last night to his car tires sitting in the rising waters.

Most players saw it as just another night as the parking lot flooded for the 6th time this summer season. But the players, coaches and townspeople woke up to something this morning that they have never quite seen before.

By the time the morning came around, the water and the nearby Housatonic River started to overflow into the Wahconah Park clubhouse, field, and parking lot.

parking-lot-flooded The river flows right beyond the outfield fences and sometimes overflows into the parking lot. The area now features water waist-high in some spots and as high as someone’s hip in others.

Many cars drove by to see what has become of Wahconah Park and some stopped by to bike, drive or even boat through the water.

A few daring fans were even courageous enough to paddle and trudge through the water to see the actual field.

outfield-look-in Most of the outfield is covered by water with just a small portion of grass still visible.

The water ranges from foul pole to foul pole and is roughly three feet deep at the outfield fences.

lf-foul-pole The Pittsfield American Defenders have had a very wet 42-game season this year. The team has been rained out 11 different times, have been suspended by rain another 4 nights, and have even had to shorten games twice due to the rain.

gm-looks-out1 “It’s been a tough year,” said Pittsfield general manager Jon Tosches. “All of us are in our first year in town but the coaches, players, and front office have really rallied together this season.”

The team has been managed by Dr. Carroll Land this season along with assistant coaches Bob Warn and Ron Swen. All of the coaches come to Pittsfield from far distances.

Bob Warn is a Hall of Fame coach from Indiana State while both Ron Swen and Dr. Carroll Land come to Pittsfield from California. Land was the manager of Point Loma Nazarene from 1961 to 1999 and is also a Hall of Fame coach. He managed assistant coach Ron Swen at Point Loma and Swen has gone on to coach many traveling teams from California and top pitchers including Colby Lewis.

All three gentlemen never expected to see a season or a park quite like this one.

The players also come from all over the country to play baseball in Pittsfield. The NECBL provides college student athletes the opportunity to enhance their skills over the summer before arriving back to their college teams in the fall.

Kevin Burk, a right-handed pitcher and freshman from the University of Kansas, arrived at the park this afternoon in shock.

“You come out here and know that the Northeast is known for some rain, but not this much,” said Burk. “It was pretty bizarre seeing a lake, a flooded field and a flooded locker room when I pulled up.”

Teammate John Andreoli, a first baseman and outfielder from UCONN also showed up and couldn’t believe it.

“We were lucky to not have this happen to us in June,” said Andreoli, a freshman from UCONN. “It felt like you were at an ocean and not at the park. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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Andreoli also mentioned that some of the players planned to go to the lake on the off day but decided to stop by the park instead.

Pittsfield did have an off day on Thursday when the high amounts of water were discovered. The American Defenders are scheduled to play at Wahconah Park on Friday night in a doubleheader matchup against the Danbury Westerners.

Tomorrow is the last day of the regular season and Pittsfield is now forced to move to nearby Clapp Park to play Danbury.

The American Defenders and Westerners also must move up the game to one o’clock since Clapp Park does not have the lights quite like Pittsfield’s normal home park.

Wahconah Park was constructed back in 1919 and is starting to gain a lot of attention for the rain that has fallen lately.

Pittsfield and Vermont played a game earlier in the year on June 27ththat featured a lightning delay, a rain delay, and a sun delay. Wahconah Park was built facing west and is unique for having sun delays in the middle of play.

Games are routinely stopped in the middle of action as the sun blinds the hitter, catcher, and umpire from center field.

Wahconah Park and Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield, CA are the only two fields in America that are still in use that have sun delays.

Games in Bakersfield start at around eight o’clock to avoid the sun delays all together while Pittsfield American Defenders games start at 6:35 PM. Typically games will be delayed in the third inning and can take anywhere from five to thirty-five minutes.

Wahconah Park faced even faced an uncertain future earlier this decade with the possibility for a new minor league facility.  However, those plans fell through and Wahconah Park continued to see games played on its site.

Pittsfield owner Dan Duquette brought an NECBL franchise here to Pittsfield in 2005 where the team has been ever since.

For now, Wahconah Park remains under water and adds another piece of nostalgic history to its already impressive resume.

There is a plaque on the Wahconah Park walls to remember the first ever college baseball game that was played between Amherst and Williams College back in 1859.

There may need to be a new plaque put up to remember the great Wahconah Park Flood of 2009, but those who experienced it may need not a sign to remember it. They have the images to recall July 30th, 2009 for the rest of their lives.

Mike is in his second season with the Pittsfield franchise as the director of broadcasting and media relations. He does the play by play radio call for the team and takes care of all media requests as well. Mike is entering his senior year at Quinnipiac University where he is studying broadcast journalism.

Photos are courtesy of the American Defenders of Pittsfield.

  • Carl Burks

    In what year was the first college baseball game ever played in America?