Grassroots effort underway

Auction to benefit Oceanside athletic fields raises $18,000

First stages of fundraising for improvements to Thomaston Street facilities
By Mark Haskell | May 08, 2017
Photo by: Mark Haskell Home plate and one of the dugouts on the softball field on Thomaton Street in Rockland.

Rockland — A grassroots effort for a massive overhaul of a handful of Regional School Unit 13 athletic fields officially kicked off on Sunday, May 7 at the Rockland Elks Club as an auction was held to begin to raise funds for projects due to take place over time.

The project is being spearheaded by Doris Norton, president of the Oceanside Improvement Fund, set up to begin work on the athletic fields on Thomaston Street.

Sunday’s auction raised “a little over $18,000,” which Norton hopes is only the beginning of a movement for Oceanside High School varsity teams to be able to host events on Thomaston Street.

“We set up a 501(c)3 charity because we thought there was a need — there is a need — to fix up the fields for RSU 13,” she said.

Norton said the projects will come in phases, the first being the overhauling of the baseball field — named Robert "Bob" Morrill Field — and the neighboring softball field.

Those were the home fields — always known as South Field — for the varsity baseball and softball teams at Rockland District High School until 2012, when the school merged with Georges Valley High School to form Oceanside High School.

Since that time, Oceanside has used the former Georges Valley High School varsity baseball and softball fields, while the district’s middle school teams use the fields on Thomaston Street.

Over the past five years students have been shuffled to many different buildings in the district — most often those in grades 6-9 — to accommodate the rise in numbers and space in buildings following the consolidation.

This past fall, the former GVHS building — which had in the past few years served as a school for students in grades 8-9 with students in grades 6-7 at the former Rockland District Middle School — now houses all middle school students in the district in grades 6-8, with the ninth graders joining their high school classmates at Oceanside High School on Broadway in Rockland.

Norton said with the district’s middle schools now being located in Thomaston — the former GVHS — it makes more sense for the middle school teams to use those fields and for the varsity programs to make the eventual transition to Thomaston Street.

“Now they’ve moved the middle school over to Thomaston, but those kids are being sent back over to Rockland to play and the Rockland kids [at Oceanside High School] are being sent over to Thomaston to play,” said Norton.

“Eventually I think it makes sense for the high school kids to be playing closer to their school and it certainly makes sense for the middle school kids to be playing within walking distance of their school,” said Oceanside athletic director Molly Bishop.

“I’m thrilled these people are taking it upon themselves to work on our fields, to help raise money and to help raise awareness for places where the district hasn’t been able to support athletics in the past,” Bishop said. “It’s great to see that enthusiasm.”

Norton said the move makes sense logistically, while also admitting the project is “personal” to her being a RDHS graduate and longtime friend of Bob Morrill.

Morrill was a longtime coach and teacher in the district and had the RDHS baseball field named after him on May 31, 1992. Morrill, who led Rockland to its lone state Class B baseball title in 1989, passed away in 1997.

“I’ve known [Morrill] all my life and the family,” said Norton. “And I looked at that field and it’s a shame. There’s a field sitting there that’s been dedicated to this really nice guy who taught for 39 years or so, coached baseball [and] he coached basketball. Everybody liked him.”

Norton said the plan is for the softball field to eventually be dedicated to Gene Drinkwater, a longtime coach in the district, who most recently coached middle school softball until he passed away in 2015.

“We’ve known Geno for a long time,” Norton said. “He helped us with peewee football years back and of course he went on to coach football [at Rockland].”

Norton said Sunday’s auction was the “opening splash” and they have “several other projects lined up throughout the summer” with the goal being to raise money for these projects, such as men’s league softball games, home run derbies and yard sales.

Norton approached Bishop about the project of renovating both fields, and Bishop put Norton in touch with another group of people that had hopes to have the softball field be named in Drinkwater’s memory — with the understanding much work had to be done before that could happen.

“They said they really didn’t want to put his name on a field that looked so bad,” said Norton.

Norton said “with all the bells and whistles,” the renovation of the baseball and softball fields would be “about $500,000.”

The work includes earthwork, irrigation, landscaping, replacing backstops and dugouts, and electrical work.

Norton said the first phase for overhauling the baseball and softball fields will “go toward a project people won’t even see.”

“It is for the irrigation,” Norton said. “There is a lot of wetland around [the fields and] the drains are clogged. And any baseball player will tell you there are rocks in left field painted white because there is ledge out there in foul territory that needs to be removed.”

Norton said “the [baseball] outfield slopes down and it’d be nice to raise that up a few feet,” along with a fence for the baseball outfield, four new dugouts [two for baseball and two for softball] and a utility building on site that “is in very sad shape.”

Norton said her hope is the projects will be far enough along that the varsity teams will be able to play on the fields in 2018, but likely not yet “with all the bells and whistles.”

Like Norton, Bishop is hopeful, but “doesn’t think that’s going to be viable at this point in time.”

“A lot of work needs to be done before that change can be made,” said Bishop. “Don’t get me wrong, I would have it happen right this second if I could. It would make my life 1,000 times easier, but the fields need to be completely ready for varsity play before I make that move.”

Artificial turf on the football field, dedicated to Dr. Wesley Wasgatt, and renovating the track also are projects the group hopes to tackle down the road. Norton said the group has not gotten estimates on what it would cost for artificial turf for the football field and the track renovation.

It is a large project — one Norton hopes student-athletes of RSU 13 will reap the benefits of for decades to come.

“We just want to do as much as we can,” Norton said. “We may not be able to do it all — our dream is to be able to do it all — and we’re sure going to give it a shot.”

The plans for the athletic field renovations. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Scene at the auction, including a portrait of Robert "Bob" Morrill, affectionately known as "BoMo." (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Scene at the auction. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Scene at the auction. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Scene at the auction. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Scene at the auction. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Sign outside the Elks Lodge. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The dirt track at Wasgatt Field. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The dirt track at Wasgatt Field. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The Robert "Bob" Morrill Field. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The Robert "Bob" Morrill Field. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The Robert "Bob" Morrill Field. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The Robert "Bob" Morrill Field. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The softball field. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The softball field. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.