Sandstone Park celebrates $30K of improvements to Albion ballfield

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 June 2021 at 2:04 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Saturday was the season-opener for this year’s Sandstone Park team in the Albion Midget League.

Players and their fans noticed a series of improvements. There is a new flag pole, upgrades to the dugouts and backstop, a new inscribed stone in the shape of a home plate thanking the founders of the park, and a new outfield fence.

Sandstone Park is an original member of the Albion Midget League, which formed in 1956. The field in 2019 was named in honor of Steve Coville Sr., who volunteered for 40 years, with 22 years as a coach and then as groundskeeper for the park as well as running the concession stand. He passed away at age 76 on Jan. 17, 2019.

Omer Fugate, left, is watering down some of the dirt so it wouldn’t be too dusty. His son plays for Sandstone.

Frank Sidari designed this memorial display in the shape of home plate. He made the wooden frame while Brigden Memorial engraved the stone in tribute to the families from “The Greatest Generation” that bought the former quarry from the village for $25 in 1954. Dedicated community members have kept up the grounds since then, and coached generations of young baseball players.

Frank Sidari came up from Florida and worked on upgrading the dugouts, stands for fans and the equipment shed.

Sandstone has only had four head coaches since 1956. Dan Bartlett has led the team since 2002. He addresses the team on Saturday afternoon before they played Carlton. Bartlett played for Sandstone when he was a kid. Josh Trapiss and Scott DeSmit also are in the photo and they serve as coaches, along with Omer Fugate.

Sandstone was first coached by Guido Mannella. He did it from 1956 to 1966. He was followed by Leonard Sidari, who led the team from 1967 to 1978. Then Coville took the reins from 1979 to 2001.

Two Carlton players warm up their arms before Saturday’s game. They are in front of the new outfield fence. That fence was about $20,000 of the $30,000 in improvements. The scoreboard also is a new addition to the field on East State Street.

Bruce Sidari thanked the Sandstone supporters for contributing to the improvements. Many former players and current families donated, from $25 to some in the thousands, Sidari said.

He launched the fundraising push about two years ago when he friend Gil Pritchard was in town and they went to watch a game. Both played for Sandstone as kids and graduated in the Class of 1966. Pritchard graduated from West Point and has had a successful business career. He and Sidari noticed some deterioration in the backstop and fences.

They talked with Bartlett, and wanted an outfield fence, partly to separate the older layers from the younger ones who are 7 to 9. The younger players have a designated practice area on the other side of the rightfield fence.

Sidari played on the team beginning in 1957. His son Geoff played for Sandstone and so did grandson Patrick Ricker.

Sidari spoke on the field before Saturday’s game. He said generations of kids have now benefitted from the vision of the families in 1954, who bought the 16 acres for $25 and formed a non-profit organization that continues today.

“This a special place to us and always will be,” Sidari said. “I’d like to salute everyone who has contributed over these last 65 years. I think this field and this team speaks volumes about the quality of the men and women – all the participants – who supported their efforts.”

The dugouts now have roofs to offer some cover from scorching sun or falling rain.

Frank Sidari put in the roof, and spent about 200 hours working on projects to make Sandstone Park better, including painting the benches and replacing rotted wood for the players in the dugouts.

The visiting team also has an improved dugout with a roof. Ben Narburgh, the Carlton coach, gets a little shade before Saturday’s game. Jayden Allport, right, served as umpire of the game.

The storage building has a new roof and has been painted in the team’s orange. It also has new shelving. There is even a port-a-john next to this building in Sandstone orange for the season.