Although “Field of Dreams” may be a cliché in describing the newly refurbished Little League Field at Buchmuller Park, the term may have been particularly true when officials unveiled it back on April 14. Unlike the movie from which the cliché was taken, it is not the spirit of one-time professional ball players that will hover over this field in the future, but the spirit of local heroes – Steven Strobert and Michael Tanner, both of whom played here as boys, and both who perished in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
For this reason as well as others, the annual opening day tradition took on new meaning this year as kids from teams sponsored by local businesses and organizations gathered on April 14 in anticipation of playing on the newly renovated field.
Little League President Guy Pascarello said he knew calling it the field of dreams was a cliché, but felt it was true.
“It is a dream come true,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli. “From the day I took office I wanted to rebuild the town’s recreation areas and playgrounds. I wanted to make Secaucus a play ground for kids. This was a beautiful field when I played on it in 1965 and it is a beautiful field now.”
“This was a beautiful field when I played on it in 1965 and it is a beautiful field now.” -- Michael Gonnelli
Opening the season for home runs and stolen bases and for stands filled with excited spectators cheering on one team or another is always a big deal in Secaucus.
In many ways, this has always been a father-and-son affair, although many mothers sat in the stands cheering as well. Fathers who had played here as children themselves now serve as coaches as their own children took the field.
Anthony Florio, a Secaucus resident, who coached on this field, was once batboy for the New York Yankees, and teased some former residents of Hoboken when he said, “You might not think that’s much of a big deal, but the best Hoboken could do was get some
guy selling peanuts at Shea Stadium.”
While he said he had great memories traveling with the New York Yankees and meeting people like Mickey Mantle, many memories are made on fields like the one in Secaucus. He said he grew up in Little Italy in New York and had to travel to The Bronx to play baseball as a boy.
“And those fields were filled with stones,” he said.
Coaching in Secaucus, he learned that kids need support of their parents, not just when they hit home runs, but when they strike out as well.
Little League has deep roots in Secaucus
The original baseball field in Secaucus was located on the site of Clarendon School on Fifth Street on what was originally the old Glindmyer farm.
Along with former police chief Arthur Temple, Howie Elwell joined two brothers in helping to shape the Little League program: John and George Bauserweiner. Both brothers had served as regular, professional ball players on the New York Giants baseball team during the 1940s, and in the 1950s, they helped Secaucus kids by establishing Little League.
In 1956, two other brothers, Eugene and Al Buchmuller, helped relocate the Little League field to its current location when they donated the land for the ball field and the nearby park to the town. Fundraising brought the $100,000 necessary for the ball field's construction.
The league is comprised of 14 teams – seven in the minor league and seven in the major league. Participation in each league depends on age, not talent. Although the majority of the players are boys, girls do play, a practice started in 1983.
The new field was converted this year from grass to synthetic turf surface that will reduce potential injuries and will reduce some routine maintenance costs. The last major upgrade to the field was done in 2001.
The upgrade included new dugouts which were named after Strobert and Tanner, whose memory will be preserved.
Pat Taylor who played with Strobert here called him “a great guy.” Ira Scalzo recalled playing with Tanner in the late 1960s on a grass field.
“It was a great field,” he joked, “but it wasn’t turf.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.