PITTSFIELD >> The baseball diamond at Clapp Park will now, and forever, be known as Buddy Pellerin Field.
On a sun-kissed Saturday, hundreds gathered at Clapp Park for the official dedication of the baseball diamond as Pellerin Field. Pellerin, who was 77, passed away in July. Since then, there has been an effort to rename the field at Clapp for Pellerin, and to renovate the field into a more modern baseball facility.
The first step was taken Saturday, when a new scoreboard was unveiled. It was a bit secondary to the overwhelming emotion of the day — remembering Pellerin and all the young people he dealt with.
"No one ever pushed or inspired me like Buddy did," said keynote speaker Tom Grieve. "No one ever made me believe in myself like Buddy did."
In addition to the ceremony officially naming the field and unveiling the scoreboard out beyond the center field fence, Pellerin's number 6 was retired by Pittsfield High School. It is the first number officially retired at the school in any sport. A uniform was given to Pellerin's wife Anne, who was accompanied to the ceremony by her six daughters and a squadron of grandchildren.
Grieve, who was a member of Pellerin's 1966 state baseball championship team, gave the keynote address for the dedication ceremonies. He was in Pittsfield to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of that victory. Members of that team gathered Friday night for a celebration, which comes every five years.
Grieve was the sixth overall player taken in the 1966 First Year Player Draft. He was drafted by the Washington Senators, played for the Senators and moved with them to Texas. He was a player with the Rangers and New York Mets before joining the Texas front office. A former Rangers general manager, Grieve is in his 21st season as the TV analyst for the American League team.
"I used to think about Buddy sometimes in big league games when things weren't going too well," he said. "I would think to myself 'What would he say now? What would he do now?' I found myself thinking, man I wish he was my manager. I wish he was my coach.
"I never met anybody who loved baseball more or who had a bigger passion for teaching it than Buddy did."
Buddy Pellerin's brother-in-law, Mark Matthews, was the master of ceremonies. Matthews was a long-time educator in the Pittsfield Public Schools. He introduced guest speakers, including Clifford Nilan, who played with Grieve on the 1966 state championship team. Nilan represented the Pittsfield Board of Parks Commissioners.
Pittsfield mayor Linda M. Tyer also addressed the gathering.
"When we think of our city and what makes it special, it is all of the character and virtue that Buddy showed throughout his life," Tyer said. "There's a reason why our beloved friend Buddy Pellerin was inducted to the Massachusetts [Baseball] Coaches Hall of Fame.
"Coaching was Buddy's passion. Teaching young people the values of hard work, fairness, dedication and teamwork. That has left a lasting impression on our city."
Michael Matthews, Buddy Pellerin's nephew, helped spearhead the project. He told the gathering that more than $50,000 had been raised for the long-term renovation. The next item on their agenda is to build a permanent batting cage, which would be alongside the basketball court at Clapp Park.
Matthews said that when Clapp celebrates it's 100th anniversary in 2019, the group would like to have lights installed.
Julianne Pellerin Herrera, the youngest of Pellerin's six daughters, was also a standout softball pitcher for her father at Pittsfield High School. She followed Grieve to the dais, and spoke for her family.
"Dad, all of us here today were touched by your magic. All of the baseball players, the softball players, the football players, all of the students you had, all of your neighbors and all of your friends, your colleagues and especially your family," she said. "Thank you for being our coach. Not just on the field, but in life."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.