WATERVILLE– As Little League players converge on Purnell Wrigley Field on a hot Monday afternoon, cars line the parking lot and street. This turf facility has become an attraction, and Waterville has become something more.
“This is becoming a baseball town,” Alfond Youth Center CEO Ken Walsh said Monday. “We talked about, ‘if you build it they will come.’ Well if you put the energy in, it does happen.”
The energy was put in over the course of two years, with Walsh, a baseball guy, overseeing its development. It opened officially a year ago, and will continue to be tweaked along the way the next few years in order to produce the best experience for ballplayers all over the area and beyond.
“You could have the most challenging atmospheres and different family dynamics, but when you start talking about baseball, it brings everybody together,” Walsh said.
Its features have settled in over the last year, including the replica Wrigley Field scoreboard, the fake ivy and brick along with other callbacks to the legendary ballpark. It also has a monument area dedicated to individuals who have impacted baseball in Maine, an area that former Yankees manager “Stump” Merrill was immortalized in just last week.
“So when people come here, it becomes a historic site,” Walsh said. “It’s a site of history, it’s not only about baseball. It’s about history. “
Purnell Wrigley is currently hosting the U12 Cal Ripken Little League Regionals, and in 2020, will host the World Series. Walsh believes the project will see more renovations in the coming years, including a tree terrace that could line the field to give it an enclosed stadium atmosphere. After all, if anything can be done to preserve this great game, Walsh will work to make it happen.
“The roots of baseball is in my heart,” he said. “It’s in my blood. And part of it is to pass that on to others who love the game, who want to love the game as much as I love the game.”