Rebuild it and they will come

There it sits, lowly and relatively forgotten. Seats are cracked, and the paint is an off-rust color — OK, so it is rust. It’s no high-class stadium, but the  4,415 seat, 104-year-old piece of baseball history sitting  in our backyard has transformed pee-wee tee-ball players into major league stars. Kevin Costner would approve. Take a small walk down Colchester Avenue and you’ll find the relic I speak of: Centennial Field.  The once proud home of the Vermont Reds, Expos and now the Lake Monsters: host to countless high school baseball championships, Babe Ruth Leagues, Legion play  and much more. However, this literal living landmark of baseball’s legacy in America is on the University’s chopping block. Why? Money. Why else? The first game played at Centennial Field was on April 17, 1906. Since then, major league stars like Orlando Cabrera, Jason Bay, and Milton Bradley have played on the field. Even Ken Griffey Jr. has graced the field. I remember going there as a kid with my dad and sitting on those cold, hard cement slabs, eager to see the players I looked up to and to eat as many hot dogs as my small frame could hold. I caught a foul ball there and had the ’97 team sign it. Hell, my dad still has that ball on a shelf in his house like it’s a true piece of baseball history. And it is. The University, Lake Monsters, Burlington and some private donors have coughed up $50,000 for a study to see if it is worth rebuilding the stadium so the Monsters can keep their major league/minor league endorsement and continue to play in Vermont. That, or have the stadium leveled, the team shipped out and more than likely a parking lot built where I once sat as a wide-eyed, baseball-fed child. The removal of both the baseball and softball programs in the past are clear signs of the detrimental nature of the University, and it’s willingness to do what is in its best interest. Not ours. Not Vermonters, that’s for sure. By using practices saved for only the most ruthless of businesses, the leaders of our school have axed more than just baseball to save a buck and line their pockets with silver. Classes, programs, teachers and many other things have been cut. Students are forced into triple living conditions to cover extra costs. We’re constantly building, tearing down and remodeling. Since I’ve started coming here, more vice presidents, assistant vice presidents, assistants to assistants and heads of committees have been added than professors and new classes I’ve had. There is more at stake here than just Vermont baseball. The University’s choice not to spend our money on programs the students’ support is like us going to a restaurant we don’t like. At the end of the day, we can give all the money and beg all we want, but if the University wants to give us stale bread, it will. After all, when you’re busy running a school into the ground, who has time for baseball?