Berwyn Paoli Area Little League: Field of Dreams
"If you build it, they will come"
In the early 1980's, it was clear that the population in our area was growing, and there was an increasing field shortage for the Berwyn Paoli Area LL.
Don Baker initially contacted and negotiated with the Philadelphia Electric Co (PECO) for a tract of land off of Howellville Road in Berwyn. By 1988, then President John Marshall and Tom Toscani completed the lease for the site now known as the "Field of Dreams". Over the next three years plans and estimates were drawn and redrawn and small fundraisers were held to raise money for the project.
The original budget proposals for the field complex ranged from between $650,000 and $800,000.
In the Fall of 1992, the Berwyn Paoli Area LL Board of Directors voted to construct two new fields off of the Howellville Road property owned by PECO. The League's treasury had less than $7,500. Meetings with the Chester County Historical Society, PECO, Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Tredyffrin Township and others took place over a period of several months. On November 6, 1992 the Official Groundbreaking for the Berwyn-Paoli Area Little League's ("BPALL") Field of Dreams ("Dreams") took place when approximately 20 volunteers began to remove trash, trees, shrubs on the area where Toscani Field now exists.
With hard work, good intentions and some luck, parents and players began the clean up of what was a local dump and level the top area of Dreams. On December 7th, a bad storm caused a "landslide" of mud to flood the Reform Church on Howellville Road. Seven volunteers spent 7 hours clearing and cleaning the Church basement and parking lot of sludge. This is not the only time this will happen ...
In November and December alone, "Rocky" our excavation contractor, used up all our funds, but agreed to continue work on the fields due to the support he was receiving from the parents and volunteers each weekend and our promise to raise more money.
To help gain the maximum result from our funds and our volunteers, Marty and Michael Cappelletti established volunteer teams which were headed by Peter Hopkins, Jim Haas, Jeanne Roggio, John Waldyer, Art DeSolis, Al D'Antonio, Ray Watson, Dennis Wasilewski, and Woody Steele to work on the fields. About this time, Caroline Haas, as Fundraising Chairperson, started her first of many fundraising campaigns; the "Field of Dreams" sweatshirt sales. This first campaign substantially raised the level of interest and participation in the project.
From November of 1992 through September of 1995 over $170,000 was raised through sweatshirt sales, sign advertisements, Silent Auctions, Monte Carlo evenings, door to door campaigns, corporate and individual donations, and the concession stand.
In February 1993, Caroline Haas' Annual Gala Committee: Mary Louise MacMullan, Anne Toscani, and Ed Antoian, hosted our first Silent Auction at Waynesborough CC which was a great success and raised over $21,000. Despite the harsh winter we are on our way!! With these funds and money received from the Sign Advertisements, and Corporate and individual contributions, we were able to complete the design of Phase I, pay for the leveling of the first three fields, install fences, sod two of the fields while seeding all three.
Under the direction of the Cappelletti crew, players and parents work through the Spring, and finally, fences are installed on Fields 1 & 2 (later named Toscani & Cappelletti) in late May. The upper parking lot and entry road is completed. On June 6th, while the temperature hits 100 degrees, sod is laid on the infields of Fields 1 & 2, and the outfield is seeded. The water hookup has not occurred, but the Reform Church allows us to connect 400 feet of hose to their faucet. That night someone stays at Dreams moving a small sprinkler from spot to spot on the fields. The Paoli Fire Deptartment drops 700 gallons of water on each field, Saturday & Sunday, June 6th & 7th.
On June 30th, 1993 the first game is played at Dreams between the Challenger teams from Berwyn Paoli and Devon Strafford LL (Jeannie Roggio and Toni Budd established the BPALL Challenger League for physically and mentally disadvantaged youth in 1991. They also helped establish four other local Challenger programs. Jeanne became Director of the District 23 Challenger Division.), at which the Phillie Phanatic throws out the first ball. Approximately 350 people attend, and the evening is a great success.
That Fall both fields are overseeded and the TeeBall Field is sodded. On November 1, a "Buck for a Bucket of Rocks" is held.
During the early Spring the Cappelletti scoreboard is installed (scoreboard donated by Coke) along with the batting cage. Both upper parking lots are completed. Twelve fir trees are planted along Howellville Road. That Summer electric is installed and the construction of the Concession Stand begins. Work on the third field begins. The Public Address system is completed at the first field. The handicap ramp system is built. On April 23, 1994 the softball and baseball fields were officially dedicated and named "Toscani Field" and "Cappelletti Field", respectively, due to the work these families contributed to the Field of Dreams project. This same day, softball, baseball and teeball games are held for the first time simultaneously. These fields have been in constant use ever since. Later that Spring, the first Tournament games are hosted at Field of Dreams.
Also completed by June were the construction of stormwater drainage trenches and outlets, piping of an underground irrigation system for all three fields (approximately 600 ft), and construction of two retention ponds.
The Concession Stand was completed and a food handling license received. The Concession Stand and roads were constructed through the efforts of Marty and Michael Cappelletti, Mike DePaul, Richard Wattles, Ray Watson, Art DeSolis, Brent Dougher, Peter Hopkins, Al DiAntonio, and Ken Daniels ... all within three weeks! The Stand became operational through the efforts of Tom Havrilla.
That Fall the three fields (Cappelletti, Toscani, and teeball) were aerated and reseeded. Mike Romano and Rob Pezotti have directed the landscaping volunteers and Mike still cuts the grass at the complex.
Board members met with the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the wetland areas. The Board votes to build out "Phase II" of the Field of Dreams complex, which will eventually become two more coach pitch fields, and one more 60' diamond.
In the Spring the entrance to Field of Dreams was paved. For the third time the water feed had to be re-done. The retaining tank and water lines were installed at the Concession Stand. Beginning this year Kathy Siravo, Janet Wham, and Marcia Weller organized the concession stand management. Rob Pezotti planted a dozen pine trees along Howellville Road and thirteen Japanese maple trees were planted next to the main road into the complex.
Professional planning assistance by Dave Fiorello, Barry Walsh, and Phil Hooper in developing the survey plans and engineering reports allowed the League to submit the results to Tredyffrin Township by June 15 for Phase II. Once approved this allowed for the construction of the two coach pitch fields to proceed.
That Fall, the grading plans were prepared for the Phase II fields. Tons of fill were delivered in preparation for the beginning of the construction of the fields West of the wetlands. The underground sprinkler system was pressurized on the Phase I fields. Plans were drawn up for the Storage/Announcers Building at Cappelletti Field. Groundbreaking for the playground area and additional landscaping near the First Refuge Church occurred.
During the Spring and Summer the Phase II fields were graded and laid out. The Reform Church's parking lot was repaved. A permit was received for the Cappelletti storage/press box building. The flower bed along the outside of the Concession Stand was planted. The water main was corrected for the last time.
In the Fall, Tom Toscani established the High School Community Service Program. The first major project using the high school kids was seeding and laying sod for the three new fields. The sprinkler system was extended to all three new fields.
This year the Phase II fields were overseeded, and plans were prepared for the Township for the final Phase II layout. The infields were cut out. The fence specifications were prepared and installed for the three fields. The Cappelletti press box was constructed and three sets of bleachers and benches were purchased. An underground drainage system was constructed on Cappelletti Field. The first official game took place June 7th at Haas Field.
That Fall, the "Walk of Dreams" was begun. The league obtained a permit from the Township to use the new fields. Approximately half of the parking lot was leveled and stoned across from Haas Field. In association with the Reform Church, landscaped around the Church. The sprinkler system piping to the Phase II Fields was installed but not connected. Aerated and overseeded all six fields. Began to clear out the Phase III section of weeds and trash.
Began the season with all six fields ready for use. Constructed three new handicap ramps, paved the road and put up traffic signs. Water was connected to the Phase II section. On May 30th, Berwyn Paoli hosted the District 21, 27 and 28 Challenger Day program. Over 120 High School students participated helping 239 players. On June 30th, a 5 Year Anniversary Party was held at the complex celebrating that first Challenger game.
In the Fall completed the leveling of the Phase III field through the efforts of Jim Silvius and Ed Antoian. Extended the driveway and parking lots down to the senior field. The sprinkler system was completed on the Phase II fields. That September, the first Mom's Tournament and BPALL Picnic was held.
That Spring and Summer, continued the "Walk of Dreams" construction. The final stoning of all parking areas was completed. Installed two drainage basins. Reseeded all of the Phase II and III fields. Hosted Challenger Day on May 22nd with 269 players and over 150 high school students participating. The outline of the 90 foot diamond was completed. League President Tom Toscani signed contracts with Coca-Cola for scorebaards at all 60 and 90 foot diamonds. The sprinkler system piping was installed at the 90 foot diamond.
In the Fall, in conjunction with TEYSA, the large storage buildings were purchased and installed. One of the storage buildings was for the sole use of the soccer organization. The 90 foot diamond infield was cut out. Due to the drought that summer, most time went into repairing damage done on the Phase II fields.
In early Spring, the electric for the scoreboard and fencing for the 90 foot diamond was completed. Later that Spring the scoreboard was installed and batting cage erected.
The "lean-to" benches for the players were replaced with dugouts on Toscani, Cappelletti, and Haas fields. The softball diamond, Toscani Field, was skinned and new fencing added to make it suitable for both Little League and ASA tournament play.
Even with strict Little League regulation of bats for safety and consistency, technology became more and more impossible to ignore. As a result, we moved the fences back on the 90 foot diamond to maintain the quality of play for Senior League, American Legion, and other high-school-age leagues. The old Coach Pitch Field #6 was skinned and received a new batting cage and fencing.
This year, we will move the fences back on Cappelletti Field, including a padded wall and 12 foot fence in right field. We will replace the scoreboard and add a second concession stand to serve the upper fields. Another practice batting cage will be added between Cappelletti Field and Toscani Field.