Diamond in the rough: Locals working to rehab Orange’s Spear Field for softball players

Muzzey Field on Hayden Street, with Spear Field located past the outfield, in Orange. Athol-Orange Chuck Stone Baseball/Softball has decided to renovate Spear Field, which has not been used for organized play in 10 to 15 years, for softball players in time for opening day on May 4.

Muzzey Field on Hayden Street, with Spear Field located past the outfield, in Orange. Athol-Orange Chuck Stone Baseball/Softball has decided to renovate Spear Field, which has not been used for organized play in 10 to 15 years, for softball players in time for opening day on May 4. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Robert A. Woodard stands near home plate at Spear Field in Orange, located west of Muzzey Field. He hopes to refurbish Spear Field for softball players.

Robert A. Woodard stands near home plate at Spear Field in Orange, located west of Muzzey Field. He hopes to refurbish Spear Field for softball players. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Robert A. Woodard sits on the bleachers at Spear Field in Orange, which has not been used for organized play in 10 to 15 years. Athol-Orange Chuck Stone Baseball/Softball, of which Woodard is president, has decided to renovate Spear Field for softball players in time for opening day on May 4.

Robert A. Woodard sits on the bleachers at Spear Field in Orange, which has not been used for organized play in 10 to 15 years. Athol-Orange Chuck Stone Baseball/Softball, of which Woodard is president, has decided to renovate Spear Field for softball players in time for opening day on May 4. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Robert A. Woodard stands with his father, Robert C. “Woody” Woodard, at Spear Field in Orange, located west of Muzzey Field. Athol-Orange Chuck Stone Baseball/Softball, of which the younger Woodard is president, has decided to renovate Spear Field for softball players in time for opening day on May 4.

Robert A. Woodard stands with his father, Robert C. “Woody” Woodard, at Spear Field in Orange, located west of Muzzey Field. Athol-Orange Chuck Stone Baseball/Softball, of which the younger Woodard is president, has decided to renovate Spear Field for softball players in time for opening day on May 4. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 03-14-2024 2:41 PM

Modified: 03-14-2024 3:08 PM


ORANGE — A local youth league is recruiting volunteers and monetary donations to help give area softball players a field of their dreams.

The board of directors for Athol-Orange Chuck Stone Baseball/Softball has decided to renovate the abandoned Spear Field on Hayden Street in time for opening day on May 4. Robert A. Woodard, the league’s president, said the field hasn’t been used for organized sports in 10 to 15 years and softball players have had to play elsewhere, including the diamond at Athol-Royalston Middle School.

“They don’t have a home. They get bounced around,” he said while standing near the adjacent Muzzey Field, which is still used for baseball. “So that’s our goal is to have a home for the girls to play on.”

His father, Robert C. “Woody” Woodard, said organized play at Spear Field ceased because participation dwindled.

Anyone who is interested in volunteering or donating equipment or supplies can send the younger Woodard an email at rwoodard@ymcaathol.org. Checks, with “Athol-Orange Chuck Stone Baseball/Softball” written on the memo line, can be mailed to the Athol Area YMCA at 545 Main St., Athol, MA 01331.

“We have a surveyor, he’s going to be coming in and he’s going to be pinpointing everything … get coordinates to mark it out,” the younger Woodard said. “And then … hopefully we’re getting some people from the community that have equipment to come in and to be able to dig up the sod and the grass, so that way we can get it done faster.”

The field is unkempt and shows signs of its abandonment, with an ungroomed peach fuzz across its entirety. There is no grass on regulation softball fields. The younger Woodard said foul poles will be added.

He got approval for the renovations from the Orange Selectboard in January, as the land that hosts both fields is owned by the town, though the league pays the water, wastewater and electric bills. Woodard said he played on both fields as a child.

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“I spent my entire childhood here,” he said, adding that local sports culture has changed considerably since then. “My two kids, they don’t play baseball. My daughter plays field hockey and my son plays golf. But I want to see baseball thrive in this area, like it used to.”

Spear Field was named after longtime Orange Police Officer Carlton Spear. Muzzey Field is named after Dr. P. David Muzzey, a dentist who once owned the land. Both men are now deceased.

Woody Woodard said he has maintained Muzzey Field since the early 1980s.

“I laid the sod on the infield,” he mentioned. “Two days after I got released from heart surgery, I came down and laid sod with a bunch of kids. They didn’t like working with me because I was too meticulous.”

Elaine Gauthier, who serves as the league’s softball director, said it can be a challenge to have the girls bounce from one field to another.

“It’s going to be great to have a field for the girls, an official softball field for them to play on. And that’s the idea behind this effort,” she said. “It will just be an all-hands-on-deck effort from both communities to get this thing up and running.”

Fundraiser coming up

A spaghetti supper fundraiser is scheduled for the Athol American Legion at 325 Pequoig Ave. from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Friday, April 12. There will be dine-in and takeout options. There will be meat and meatless options, desserts for sale, a cash bar and a 50/50 raffle.

The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children 3 to 12 years old. Children younger than 3 will eat for free. All proceeds from the supper will benefit Athol-Orange Chuck Stone Baseball/Softball.

The fundraiser will also help kick off the 2024 River Rat Race, a 5.2-mile canoe sprint on the Millers River from the Alan E. Rich Environmental Park in Athol to Riverfront Park in Orange.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.