As has been documented on this site before, Pax Arcana plays in a Boston-based adult baseball league — in which I spend a few days a week dressing like Josh Hamilton while running like Alexander Hamilton.
One of the serious problems with my league is the quality of fields on which we play. Whereas my college team played on a pristine diamond embedded into a sun-splashed mountainside, I now find myself dodging used condoms and broken bottles on all-dirt infields from Revere to Dorchester.
It’s enough to think there aren’t enough good-quality fields to go around.
But that’s not the case.
Every year, all local baseball organizations seeking to play on adult-sized fields (remember, we’re not talking about Little League fields here) submit permit requests to a shadowy and complex wing of the city government. And every year some leagues get to play on well-kept, well-watered, well-appointed diamonds while others — like ours — are tossed the table scraps.
The reason for this, I suspect, is that other local leagues like the Yawkey League and the Park League have been around forever and therefore have relationships with local officials that guarantee them primacy in what should by any measure be an equitable distribution of public resources.
In most places, that’s called politics. In Boston, that’s called Boston.
Anyway, I got off on this rant after reading this story in the Boston Globe, in which a reporter routinely checked in on the city’s newest — and best-manicured — public baseball fields, only to find that they are almost never used and typically padlocked to keep out the sorts of people who might wear tight pants and bring baseball bats to a public park.
These fields in particular are a perfect symbol of how private money and influence in the public sector — even among the most well-intended — can overshadow the public interest. The fields were built on the shores of the Charles River using private donations collected in memory of Teddy Ebersol, Red Sox fan and son of NBC honcho Dick Ebersol who died in a plane crash in 2004. Red Sox president Tom Werner donated $1.8 million toward the cost of the fields, which opened with a bang that quickly silenced to a whimper:
Sportscaster Bob Costas hosted the dedication. Ebersol, Werner, and then-Governor Mitt Romney spoke, as did Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Teddy Ebersol’s namesake. Hundreds attended. It may have been one of the largest crowds to date at the fields.
According to the article, Beacon Hill power non-profit Hill House controls a good chunk of the permits for the fields — which must be obtained from some sort of Frankenstein’s monster of approval boards that comprises not only the Department of Conservation and Recreation but also a panel of municipal and non-profit coordinators.
Here’s board member Meg Vaillancourt of the Red Sox Foundation explaining that the problem is that not enough people know about the fields:
Vaillancourt said that Hill House does not monopolize the fields and that many agencies, including the Friends of Teddy Ebersol’s Red Sox Fields, have tried to get the word out about the fields. Last month, for example, Hill House sponsored a two-day, multiteam tournament there, inviting teams from South Boston, the South End, Mission Hill/Roxbury, Charlestown, and Jamaica Plain to play. Hill House paid all the costs. DCR officials followed up with an e-mail to participating team officials reminding them that the fields are public and theirs to use.
“Our reputation is a city too often divided by race and class and even ZIP codes,” Vaillancourt said. “The idea of this facility is to tear down those barriers and say, ‘Here’s a great asset we can share together.’ “
I don’t know about race and class and shit like that. I know that my baseball league comes from all over the Boston area and speaks English, Spanish, and Japanese. About the only “asset” we’re sharing together is that we play on some of the rottenest fucking dirt pits known to man.
End rant now. Thanks.
Build it and they may not come [Boston.com]