(Host) Despite a major setback, it appears that summer collegiate wood-bat baseball will be coming to Bennington this summer.
The owner of the Bennington Bombers says the team expects to play its first season at Southern Vermont College.
VPR’s Susan Keese has more.
(Keese) In his office in Sunderland, Jack Appelman contemplates the original drawings for Bombers Field at Bennington’s Lower Willow Park.
The field was going to be Astroturf.
(Appelman) “And we have obviously bleachers, dugouts, bullpen, this is a press box — two story. This was going to be a baseball memorabilia museum.”
(Keese) Unfortunately, he says it isn’t going to happen at Lower Willow Field, which Appelman had leased from the town for that purpose. The field is a capped-over landfill. Once the engineering studies started coming in, it was clear the cost of getting the land ready to build on was going to be prohibitive.
Fortunately, Bennington’s Southern Vermont College stepped up to the plate. Karen Gross, the college president, says all but the final formalities are in place, at least for this summer.
Gross grew up watching Cape Cod’s famous collegiate league play. She sees it as a way to forge stronger ties with local residents.
(Gross) “It’s bringing something that the community wants and needs to our campus, allowing the community to share in the excitement of a local wood bat league team… and it’s exactly the kind of thing I’ve been hoping would happen for this institution and this community.”
(Keese) Appelman says he’ll do some work this year on the college’s existing field. The players had already planned to spend the eight-week season in the college dorms.
(Appelman) “You know we’ve recruited players from all over the country. We do have players from Vermont. And we went back to the league and we said, look this has fallen through. We may not be able to play this year because number one, we’re not going to have lights.’ And the league president came back to us and said, look we’ll make it work for you. But let’s just get it started. We’ve got to get it going.””
(Keese) So the Bombers are scheduled to play just 16 home games this season, all afternoon games.
The team is part of a New York State Collegiate league partially funded by major league baseball.
In the long term, Appelman hopes to realize his loftier baseball dreams on the Southern Vermont College’s 320-acre campus.
College President Gross says she’s excited about the possibility of becoming the Bombers’ permanent home. But there are issues to work out.
Appelman, who bought the team two years ago, says he’s committed. The die-hard Yankee fan says he isn’t in this for the money, though he hopes to break even.
He answers skeptics by pointing to his track record as a business owner who’s also renovated some key downtown properties.
And he’s promising hot dogs, popcorn and plenty of good baseball when the team arrives in June.
For VPR news, I’m Susan Keese.