DERBY >> The Board of Aldermen Thursday voted in favor of relocating the existing high school baseball field not too far from its home base, rather than across town.
The aldermen voted based on the recommendation from the Baseball Field Relocation Committee to relocate the baseball field, located next to the football field at the Leo F. Ryan Athletic Complex, to Chatfield Street, where the softball field currently is located.
The baseball field will remain on the school campus, which is what many people pushed for, rather than two other unpopular options that were on the table, Witek Park and Bradley School.
The baseball field, which is not regulation size, needs to be moved to make way for a major athletic complex makeover, which will include construction of an artificial turf field, multi-purpose field and eight-lane rubberized track at Ryan Field. The state Bond Commission approved $2.9 million in funding for the makeover.
A separate project, which will include creation of the new baseball field and new, state-of-the-art fieldhouse, will be funded thanks to a $2 million private donation to Derby High School, courtesy of Joan A. Payden, who made the contribution school officials called a real “game changer” in memory of her father, J.R. Payden, a DHS class of 1915 graduate.
While the baseball field will get a new home at the location of the current softball field, school and city officials assured all that the softball program will not be hurt by the move. The softball field likely will be moved to the new artificial turf field at Ryan Field, or to the end of the existing Little League field, according to Superintendent of Schools Matthew Conway, but again remaining on the school campus, and not moved across town.
Alderman Art Gerckens cast the sole dissenting vote on the baseball field relocation, mainly because he wanted to ensure that the concerns of former Alderman Beverly Moran, who has overseen the softball program for decades, would be honored, in that the softball program will not be hurt by any relocation issues. Moran, at a forum last October, along with dozens from the public, urged that no sports programs be displaced or hurt by the move.
Alderman Barbara DeGennaro, chairwoman of the relocation committee, who played softball as a youth, offered assurances that the softball program will not be displaced, just moved elsewhere on the campus.
“We’re not taking softball away,” she said.
Head softball coach Alderman Joe DiMartino, who has coached the girls’ team for 27 years, also said that on his watch, the program isn’t going anywhere.
“I’ll certainly not going to stand by and let the girls get slighted,” he said. “I’m not going to let them lose a single thing, these girls deserve it.”
City Treasurer Keith McLiverty, chairman of the Athletic Complex Makeover Committee, said nobody will lose anything.
“There is no fight here and nobody is losing a thing,” McLiverty said.
Aldermen Thursday also approved creation of a 16-member fieldhouse/baseball field committee to oversee that project.