History of Bennington Little LeagueThe complete story, starting from the mid-1950s to present day:
In the mid-50s a group of local businessmen and sports enthusiasts assembled with the goal of providing baseball for the youth of Bennington. Though there were many decisions to make, one was relatively easy. During that time the only options for youth baseball was to create an independent league or charter with Little League International. Seeing the name Little League was, and still is, synonymous with baseball the decisions practically made itself. Following guidelines set forth in the Little League handbook, a set of by-laws, league rules and operating procedures were developed by our first Board of Directors. In 1958 our first charter was submitted and approved by Little League International.
As with many sports the biggest hurdle was finding a place to play. Bennington may be a small town, but we are surrounded by mountains making flat land for ball fields very hard to find. For the first decade or so the league operated on County Street at the same site where the Mount Anthony High School currently sits. This facility had multiple fields for players of all ages. Unfortunately to make room for the new school the baseball fields had to be removed and a search was on for a new site.
After many meetings and discussions with local land owners the use of a field on Beech Street was offered. So yet again the work to construct a youth diamond began. Baseball resumed and thanks to a hard working group of volunteers and a generous landowner not a year was missed. This too proved to be a relatively short term solution and after a number of years Bennington Little League was again without a home.
Upon losing this location it was decided no other fields would be constructed until the league could purchase and own its own piece of property to ensure a long-tern solution would be in place for the future generations. With good foresight and hard work the Park Street site was finally purchased and so began the tireless work to bring the dream to reality. After countless hours and days of hard work, fundraising and donated services and materials the complex slowly took shape. With dugouts, concession, storage not to mention more than a thousand feet of fencing the site was finally ready for baseball. The work included two 46/60 diamonds and a senior league 60/90 diamond, the latter of which was built twice in order to rotate its orientation after realizing the original version had outfielders facing the sun and batters dropping balls on the heads of the Little Leaguer’s next door.
Though the original Little League field layout has remained essentially unchanged, many additions, renovations and updates have meant each season brings a new and improved experience for the players and parents alike. The construction of storage buildings, an open air pavilion and proper dugouts have all given our site a more substantial presence. In the past 8 years alone we have connected to town sewer, constructed new bathrooms, 2 new sheds, a new concession stand with more space and upgraded equipment, replaced infields, added new batting cages, upgraded scoreboards and most recently added a brand new state-of-the-art set of Musco lights also on Hogan field. Not to mention a new tractor and many new tools for maintaining the site are all major upgrades.
All of these site improvements have been in additional to dramatically updating equipment for baseball. Catcher gear, helmets, baseballs, and practice equipment are no longer the tattered versions from the past. Each year the league purchases new equipment in order to cycle through and ensure outdated items are taken out of rotation.
None of this work would have been possible if not for our generous sponsors and tireless board members, coaches and parents. The countless number of volunteers passing through the gates on Park Street has continued to follow the vision of the men and women who brought us this opportunity. Some have been coaches, umpires and managers, while others help with concession, field maintenance and fundraising. Each has played a vital part in our success. In fact, today the fields we use are named appropriately after two of our most dedicated volunteers with nearly 70 years of service between them. Bob Hogan helped bring the Park Street Complex to the next level and spent most of his summer at the fields working to make sure the players had the best. Bob also found time to coach hundreds of children in between field mowing. A sign with “Hogan Field” is hung looking over what was once simply called the major league field. It was only fitting then that the second field be named after Ray Farnum, who just happens to be Bob’s son-in-law. Though Ray started to help Bob, his passion for the sport has carried him through nearly 4 decades of volunteering, well after Bob’s retirement. In 2010 “Farnum Field” was named in Ray’s honor during a very memorable opening day.
Over the years many volunteers have come and gone. We have seen our share of members last for one or two seasons, while others have given decades of their time. Past members like Bob Hogan, Otto Raetz, Carl Granger, the ONeill’s, Bucky Beavis, Ray Farnum and many others have helped mold and guide our league to be the success it is now. Whether 1 year or 30, volunteers are the reason our league is successful and thank you doesn’t begin to cover what it means.
As we enter our 65th year we reflect on the good times and the not-so-good times. We have endured all of the current distractions brought forth by the ever changing youth. We are proud to say that despite video games, lacrosse and the year round single sport athletic options we have not only maintained, but generally increased our numbers each season over the past decade. We are very optimistic in our future and the future of baseball in our small town.