waconah park, ’round sunset

They built the thing in the wrong damn direction, you know.
The “sun field” being home plate, and come late afternoons
Every pitch a potential life-and-death experience for hitter and catcher alike
(One young Mets farmhand, in a fit of sheer exasperation,
Actually came to the plate in full catcher’s garb.)
Still, it was—well, at least once a upon a time—just a short hop
From Pittsfield to The Show, and any old timer
Will gladly talk your ear off about how Kenny Brett,
Barely a year out of high school, don’t you know,
Went straight from here to The Impossible Dream
(Though Kenny, so improbably young in all their memories
Is long since dead now, gone like the boom-times before GE shut down,
Leaving nothing behind but poisons in the Housantonic.)
That is all memory, though, the park’s fortunes
Fading hand-in-hand with the city’s,
Inhabited by low-level minor league clubs
Where one player a summer might get his Crash Davis moment in the sun,
Later indie-league teams with kids and hangers-on barely good enough to dream.
Now there is only a summer league for low-ceiling college kids,
The old wooden grandstand, still standing out of some implausible stubbornness
(Last living World War One veteran, some local lifer will invariably say,
Cackling and spitting, their ranks thinned each year
By the siren song of trailer parks in Orlando and hip fractures)
Now dotted with a group of locals, quirky minor-league aficionados
And a cluster of area scouts, who,
On the odd occasion of something noteworthy on the field,
Will make a show of pulling out a stopwatch or radar gun
(Though they are aware they are gathered here
With the lowest-common-denominator expectations,
Looking for so-called organizational types,
Middle relievers and fifth outfielders to fill out rosters)
But most of the time, they simply huddle together and talk quietly,
Speaking in inaudible tones the words of some dead and inscrutable language.

(Slap-dashed together for this Toads challenge presented by the good Marian, who you should be reading religiously here


9 thoughts on “waconah park, ’round sunset

  1. ah, i swear you are my doppelganger. or something like that, complementary maybe is the better word. what! now you are writing about Wahonah Park and i feel like i am there. maybe it’s because i’m a few miles down the road, as the crow flies. hey there’s only one N in Housatonic. hah! maybe i’ll get my Crash Davis moment in the sun this year.

  2. Ken Brett, almost a better hitter than he was a pitcher. Fine stuff, as always. I can almost taste the warm, stale beer in the rickety stands. Just the way minor league ball should be.

    1. One of my fondest memories is drinking dirt-cheap Matt’s at the old Falcon Park in Auburn, NY (I heard they remodeled it from stem to stern, which is too bad), which had some of the ricketiest stands on the planet. The way it’s supposed to be, indeed.

  3. i got some flu bug yesterday which never stops me from eating.
    so i went for too much thai food and then had no choice but to walk real slow with many stops at benches.
    one of em’ was in a grassy area not yet invaded by dog owners
    which won’t bother me. i like dogs.
    it has what looks to be a 40 or 50 foot cement wall, my measurement based on some 5 foot lady passing.
    the wall has the faded letters of some old warehouse.
    i wish there were baseball kids pretending those big league stances around here.
    oh screw it, i’ll call up some has been friends and we’ll play wall ball.

    somehow this maybe relates to your excellent poem and the rise of specialization types
    or to hell with specialization types because james shields reached double figures in complete games in 2011

  4. As a former resident of Pittsfield and a former fan of the Pittsfield Cubs (including Mark Grace, Hector Villenueva, Doug Discenzo, Rick Wrona, and Dwight Smith, who most people were convinced would be a superstar in Chicago, but it didn’t turn out that way) when they played at Wahconah Park. They were Double A, Eastern League, in 1987. A lot of these guys made it to the majors. A good team.

    And the sun was crazy. WOW, did that sun come in early and blast ya, which is why my father and I usually sat in the stands along the first base line instead of behind the plate.

    Were you there, W.K.? Because you PERFECTLY captured Wahconah Park.

    Except that you spelled Wahconah wrong, but I won’t make a big deal about that. That was probably done intentionally, as you have a poetic license (literally! ha ha) to do so.

    I loved this. This was one of my favorites.


    1. I’ve never been to Wahconah (and that’s not poetic license, just sloppy work on my part), but I’ve been to Pittsfield several times (I have relations of all sorts east of Troy and in Lee northward) so the story of the park being built in the wrong direction is pretty familiar to me.

  5. One of the dining halls at SUNY Geneseo was built wrong way round, with a wall of windows intended for world-class sunsets wasted by facing east towards a hill. Architect’s nightmares.

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