Friday June 10, 2011

PITTSFIELD -- Paul Dowd will be at Wahconah Park on Sunday at noon, and he will feel the love.

Dowd, who founded the Berkshire County Jimmy Fund Chapter 30 years ago and has been its only president ever since, will gather his strength and be part of a ceremony that when it’s completed will have changed the name of the venerable athletic arena from Wahconah Park to Paul Dowd Field at Wahconah Park.

This year’s Pittsfield Colonials will be the first organized team to play on the newly named diamond with a Can-Am contest scheduled for 2 p.m.

Dowd, who in recent years has battled courageously against Lou Gehrig’s Disease, pitched for the Pittsfield Red Sox of the Eastern League in 1966. The Michigan native, who attended Ferris State College in Grand Rapids, stayed in Pittsfield and has made the city his home for 35 years.

"We hope people will take to the new name," said William Barry, a city attorney and former city councilor, who along with former City Councilor James Boyle spearheaded the move to honor Dowd for his role with the Jimmy Fund and his service to the city. "Hopefully the area sportswriters will use the new name in print, but that’s up to them."

Mayor James M. Ruberto is expected to be on hand to say a few words at the ceremony that will feature a plaque/bust of Dowd similar to what one might see at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. If Ruberto makes it to Wahconah Park, it will begin a busy day for the mayor, who will also be speaking and handing out diplomas at both the Pittsfield High and Taconic graduations.

Barry said past mayors and city councilors and other Pittsfield notables are expected to be there to see Dowd honored. The ceremony itself will take place inside the admission gate near the walkway that leads to the grandstand. Barry said due to Dowd’s condition it won’t be a long affair.

That said, it’s sure to be packed with emotion.

"This day is about Paul’s genuine contributions over a long period of time to the city and to his work with the Jimmy Fund," said friend and local Jimmy Fund member Joe Breault. "And you know what? He’s still doing it. Paul’s been amazing that way."

Barry added that Sunday’s event would not be possible without the support of both the current City Council and the Parks Commission chaired by Cliff Nilan. Both gave unanimous support to the name change, said Barry, who added that City Solicitor Richard Dahoney was able to dot plenty of I’s and cross many T’s to get things legally in order.

"Since we started this push for Paul, I’ve had plenty of people stop me on the street and tell me a Paul Dowd story," Barry said. "He’s done wonders with getting local people into places like Dana Farber in Boston. One fellow told me that Dana Farber gave him a timeline of three months before he could be admitted. The fellow said that Paul was able to get him in the door in just a couple of weeks."