ST. ALBANS — The Rotary Field at Cioffi Park, home of St. Albans Little League, got a facelift this spring thanks to the work of dedicated volunteers.
The fields at Cioffi Park have been closed this spring due to COVID-19 restrictions, but when those lifted to allow a small grounds crew, work on re-sodding the infield and rebuilding the mound took place.
Jimmy Matis, vice president of the St. Albans Little League board, was pleased with the result.
“The fields are very special to the kids and to us, and there have been a lot of great ball games played here,” said Matis.
The park has hosted the Little League District 9-10-year-old tournament for many years, either in full or in part.
Hosting the tournament is a special opportunity, and functional facilities play a role in how spectators and players enjoy the games.
Cioffi Park, consisting of four fields, a batting cage, a snack bar, and bathrooms, has been an ideal location, and thanks to the recent upgrades, it will continue to serve the community for years to come.
Chris Saylor, the greenskeeper at the Champlain Country Club, worked with volunteers from the city to complete the project at Cioffi Park.
Volunteers removed the old mound and sod from the infield, rebuilt the mound and laid fresh sod around the mound and in areas where the grass was thin.
Saylor was able to complete most of the infield around the pitcher’s mound, and he plans to return in the fall to complete the areas he was unable to finish.
“We worked to get the dimensions right and get the infield smooth,” said Saylor.
“It’s a tremendous improvement, and it was possible because of the combination of volunteers.”
Marty Manahan, with the City of St. Albans Public Works Department, also lent a hand with the project.
Manahan coached teams on the field, and his children played on the field when they were young.
“The field is a huge asset to the community,” said Manahan, “and a lot of kids have come through here.”
The Public Works Department plays a role in the park’s upkeep; they mow the lawn and provide parking across the street during games.
“Many people have come before us who’ve cared for this field, and every group that comes along seems to bring it to the next level,” said Manahan.
Manahan noted that the fields have been receiving some use as restrictions have been lifting.
“There have been kids and families down here playing pick up baseball,” said Manahan, “and that’s good to see.”
On many June evenings, the ball fields at Cioffi Park are brimming with families.
“During the summer, this place is hopping! It’s fun baseball--quality baseball to watch, and it’s a good atmosphere,” said Manahan.
Seeing the fields quiet hasn’t been easy for many, but Manahan found the silver lining.
“Everything that’s gone on with COVID-19, it’s given us the time to get the sod in and to allow it to grow and take root,” said Manahan.
St. Albans mayor, Tim Smith, has been tending to the watering of the field since Saylor finished laying the sod.
Saylor brought sod from the golf course, selecting a patch he knew he was going to be renovating.
Over three weekends, Saylor patched together the new sod, and Smith and the watering crew went to work.
Standing on the lush, new grass, Smith smiled as he recalled his Little League days.
“I don’t think there’s a kid who played Little League, who can’t remember what team they played on,” said Smith. “I played for the Cardinals and the Pirates.”
Looking over the sunlit, breezy fields, Smith spoke of the use the park receives in a normal year.
“On a night like this, when four games are going on, it provides a great atmosphere for families. It’s a great community place.”
Smith extended his thanks to the volunteers who helped with the project, ensuring kids will have an even better place to play in years to come.
“Chris was so conscientious; he wanted it to be done right. Anyone who’s done sod work knows how much work this is. His knowledge and leadership have been great!”
Jimmy Matis and the St. Albans Little League board are currently working with Little League Vermont to try to provide local children with summer baseball.
“We’re coming up with some decisions about the season in the next few weeks,” said Matis.
“Many organizations have already canceled, but we’re doing all we can to make it work.”
If teams do take the field this summer, they will be pleased with the results of the work the caring community members have done to restore the Rotary Field.