by Mark Huard
Major League Baseball Chicago Cubs All Star pitcher and former Boston Red Sox, Lee Smith, was on hand at the renovation site on Wednesday, September 7, for a ground breaking ceremony and celebration dinner. Lee Smith reflected on his all-star career and how Waterville’s completely accessible replica of Wrigley will positively impact the youth of Waterville, statewide and beyond!
This ceremony also honored and recognized Hall of Fame college baseball coach, Dr. John Winkin and Maine native Clyde Sukeforth, a former MLB alumni who was instrumental in signing Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues.
A special tribute was given to Fran Purnell who coached, managed, and developed baseball in Waterville at this very field for over 45 years. Fran still coaches the “Challenger Program” for kids with disabilities, a program that will be the cornerstone of the new $1.4 million Purnell Wrigley Field sponsored by Major League Baseball Tomorrow Fund, The Harold Alfond
Foundation, North East Turf, Inc., the city of Waterville and numerous other benefactors.
Purnell Wrigley Field joins the Harold Alfond Fenway Park, in Oakland, as the only two licensed replica turfed fields in the country – located right here in Central Maine. CEO, Ken Walsh of the Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA at the Alfond Youth Center said, “These fields give kids the opportunity to feel like real Major League players! The turf not only gives everyone the chance to play but extends the baseball season here in Maine, giving kids more time to develop their skills and learn sportsmanship while playing the game they love. The Purnell Wrigley Field is truly a grass roots community project built on the support of many and varied contributors of monetary and in-kind gifts. It’s a wonderful project honoring the legacy of some terrific ‘home town’ heroes.”
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