With Andover Little League opening day coinciding with April school vacation week this year, league officials were facing the prospect of less-than-packed playing fields for the first games of the season.
So they decided to get creative. They’ve taken the beloved sandlot approach to baseball for opening day 2014, set for this Saturday, April 26.
If you show up, you’re on the roster. The brand new Deyermond Park fields on Blanchard Street await.
“With so many kids away on vacation with their families and so many absent players, we thought this would be a good way to handle it,” Andover Little League President Scott Nichols said.
Three players from each of the league’s 74 teams were asked to play in the inaugural games on the new ballfields. They will be joined by any other players eager and ready.
“It’s like sandlot baseball. You just have to show up to play,” Nichols said.
The sandlot games will follow the park’s public dedication ceremony at 2 p.m. in memory of Warren “Buster” Deyermond. The Andover resident, who was very active in youth sports, died while serving in Vietnam on July 14, 1969.
His death — a month shy of his 21st birthday — came just days before he was scheduled to complete his tour of duty and return home. He became Andover’s last military casualty, according to Mike Burke, director of Andover Veterans’ Services.
Town officials and veterans groups will join with Andover Little League players, families and officials as well as others from the community to salute Deyermond’s memory during the dedication. Members of the Deyermond family will also be on hand for the ceremony.
Then, ballplayers will take their places to officially christen the new park’s three baseball fields.
Talk of new fields started years ago as Town Meeting in 2007 approved the $2.8 million purchase of 13 acres on Blanchard Street to house three Little League regulation baseball diamonds and a large soccer field. An additional lot was purchased in 2011.