We are well into the Major League Baseball playoffs, but in the Windsor County town of Cavendish people are focused on local ball.
The town’s Little League field was a replica of Boston’s 100-year-old ballpark, until Tropical Storm Irene destroyed it. This month, residents are putting the final touches on its reconstruction.
Irene hit Cavendish especially hard. Floodwaters uprooted homes, ruined businesses and twisted roads.
"There were just a few pockets that didn’t get hit," said Mark Huntley, a selectman in Cavendish, recalling how the Black River jumped its banks and tore through Greven Field – a pint-sized replica of Fenway Park.
The field was destroyed, and its 16-foot-high Green Monster and manual scoreboard were knocked over and buried in silt.
After homes and businesses were mucked out and the town’s roads were repaired, Huntley says Cavendish turned its attention to Greven Field. "This is a key component of our town. We don’t really have a rec department. So when it was hit by Irene, it was pretty heavy to even anticipate coming back here."
Now, the town is transforming Greven Field into a rec center, with help from the Boston Red Sox, FEMA, and an internationally known classical pianist. Ignat Solzhenitsyn played a concert this spring in Chester to raise money for renovating the field. He and his brothers grew up playing ball at Greven, after their father, writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was exiled from the Soviet Union. The family still has close ties to Vermont.
"Tropical Storm Irene caused so much unpredictable damage to Vermont and our region," Solzhenitsyn said in a phone interview. "Some of the damage was perhaps less important to people’s livelihoods and yet very sad and difficult to deal with in terms of the way that people come together."
To bring more of the community together, Mark Huntley says the park will include a volleyball net and a basketball court behind the reconstructed Green Monster. Huntley estimates the project will cost about $50,000. Some have raised concerns about rebuilding in a floodplain, but Huntley dismisses them.
"It’s really difficult to duplicate what we have here – the way it’s centrally located," Huntley said. "The guts of the field were already here. And the history goes back 50 years. There used to be a big sky box here and they used to announce games."
Huntley is certainly nostalgic – his kids grew up playing ball on this field. He hopes reconstruction is complete before the snow flies.
As he and others in town work they continue to wait – for answers from FEMA, for the economy to improve, and for the Red Sox to find a new manager.
More than a year after Irene, Huntley says rebuilding Greven Field has been therapeutic.