Wednesday, September 23, 2009

'I am glad the fields are being used'.

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Wanted to get into this with the Irish Baseball League 2009 playoffs starting this coming weekend. When the first pitch is thrown on Saturday morning around 11am, it will be done so at a purpose built, beautiful baseball field. Want to know how that happened? Well, let's find out.


I only knew the basics on the man who brought 'the' baseball field to Ireland, until I got into conversation with Brent Shyer, the webmaster for Walter O'Malley's website. Through a friendly back and forth with Brent I have started to learn more about the history of the Dodgers and the involvement of the O'Malley family with same.

Walter Francis O'Malley (October 9, 1903 – August 9, 1979) was basically an American sports executive who owned the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers team in Major League Baseball from 1950 to 1979. Calling him a baseball executive, however, is not paying him anything close to his full due, he is a Dodgers legend. The Dodgers were initially successful under O'Malley's leadership, winning National League pennants in 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1956. In 1958 he brought major league baseball to the West Coast, moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn to LosAngeles. They remained successful on the field, winning the World Series in 1959, 1963, and 1965.

On March 17, 1970, Walter turned over the presidency of the team to his son Peter. Peter O'Malley held the position until 1998 when the team was sold on. In that time he became friendly with Anne Murphy, Mike Kindle and Mick Manning of Baseball Ireland. Peter generously funded the construction of the O'Malley baseball Fields at Corcaigh Park in Clondalkin, West Dublin in 1998 and those fields have been the home of Irish Baseball ever since. The majority of league games are held at the fields along with Ireland National Team games and practice sessions.

I while ago I was sent a really interesting looking book on the history of the Dodgers, sent on by Peter O'Malley via Brent Shyer of the Walter O'Malley website. Inside was a short, friendly letter from Peter himself. Just an amiable hello, which ended with a typically modest, understated line that reads as such;

'I am glad the fields are being used'.

I actually laughed to myself a little on reading that, and I thought, 'Really, Peter, if only you knew.' The fields have certainly been in use. They have been the scene of the majority of Irish league baseball games since their opening in 1998. Merely saying 'the fields are in use' though is like saying 'The Red Sox winning the World series in 2004 was a reasonably big deal to the people of Boston'.

Take this coming weekend for example. Amongst the Irish league playoff games is a huge clash between the Dublin Spartans and my club side, the Dublin Hurricanes. I can say, assuredly, it will be a quality encounter played by some of the best players in Irish league history. Here's the thing. I know Darran O'Connor, the Spartans and Ireland veteran, is already thinking about this game. I know Spartans and Irish centre fielder John Dillon is thinking about this game, as he works away in his 9-5 job. I know my Hurricanes team mates and superb infielders Steve Divito and Andy Martin are thinking about this coming weekends game.

I definitely know my long term friends and Hurricanes and Irish team teammates Chris Foy and Tom Kelley are thinking about this big game. I know that because I am. I can't wait for Saturday morning and the chance to play baseball at Corcaigh Park. I can't wait to travel there amongst friends. I can't wait for the good natured banter before the first pitch. I can't wait to kick the dust on the mound and look up at the blue Irish sky before the start of the game. And yet none of this would be possible without the marvelous backdrop of the O'Malley fields, born of the O'Malley family's generosity.

You know, too often in life we move on and forget the simple things. Simple things like how in 1998 Peter O'Malley saw fit to give Ireland two beautiful baseball fields, side by side. Since then, simply put, thousands of moments and memories have been born at that field, quite literally hundreds of great games of baseball have been played there. Peoples lives have been elevated by those fields.

Peter the fields aren't just in use. Every weekend they are part of the dreams and hopes of dozens of peoples lives here in Ireland. Play ball.

A rare Lorcan Sherlock sighting (grey hoodie) amongst his 'Canes brethren

Links:

If you would like to get involved with Baseball Ireland at any level, Adult or Youth, or would like to support the game in Ireland, please refer to this link.


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Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

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