Baseball league finds new home

Challengers commissioner Richard Dickershaid will retire from managing the baseball league for devel

Challengers commissioner Richard Dickershaid will retire from managing the baseball league for developmentally disabled youths and adults at the end of this season, content in the knowledge that he has finally found a permanent home for his players.

“This will be our home base,” Dickershaid, 72, said Thursday from the playing fields at Woestina Park in Rotterdam Junction. “This is my year. I did what I wanted to do. I want to sit back now and enjoy it.”

What he did was secure an agreement with the town of Rotterdam to lease Woestina Park for $1 a year for use by his league. The league, consisting of approximately 135 people ages 6 to 65 on 10 teams, will use the park’s three diamonds Monday through Thursday and on Fridays in the event of rain during the week. The Rotterdam Little League will have use of the fields on weekends, when typically the Challengers don’t play. The park will also be open to town residents.

The Challenger Tri-County Baseball League is spending approximately $50,000 to upgrade the fields before opening day. The season opens May 2, with the league playing through June.

“This has taken a long time and a lot of work by a lot of people to get here,” Dickershaid said.

The league plans to resod the three fields and put in a sprinkler system for one field. It also plans to regrade and lay stone in the parking lot and paint the concession stand and dugouts. The playing fields and bathrooms will be made handicapped accessible.

Dickershaid said that the $50,000 is the accumulation of years of donations and fundraisers and that he plans to spend all of it, if necessary, to fix up the park. “The $50,000 was made to do this project,” he said. “The kids are looking forward to this.”

The league had been leasing private land off of Route 7 to play games, paying the owner $800 per year, plus the cost to maintain the field. The property is considered prime for development, and the Challengers were worried they would lose the site at some point.

Dickershaid has already turned over presidency of the league to Ellen Brown of Pattersonville. Brown’s daughter, Helen Claus, has played in the league for 13 years; she is now 27.

Before becoming president, Brown was a longtime coach and league supporter.

“I stepped up because Dick wanted to step down. He approached me and asked if I wanted to be president,” she said. “I enjoy being with the kids and have always been involved as a volunteer.”

Dickershaid said the league has survived for more than two decades through the generosity of the community.

“This program is owned by people in the community. To me, the only thing I have done here was to find people with compassion to support the program,” he said. “It was not hard to take the kids from one side of the fence [separating spectators from players] to the other side of the fence.”

Dickershaid credited St. George’s Lodge No. 6 of the Masons for giving the league $5,000 annually to cover operating costs, the Rotterdam Junction Volunteer Fire Department for its offer to grade the parking lot and Rotterdam Opportunities for Youths for offering to paint the buildings, plus countless other community groups.

He also credited the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Office for its new inmate work program. On Thursday, five inmates from the Schenectady County Correctional Facility spent hours clearing dead leaves and brush from hills surrounding the park. The material serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

The inmates are volunteers giving back to the community, said Capt. Jim Barrett of the sheriff’s office.

“Idle time is a killer in county jail, and these are happy to give back to the community. It touches their hearts,” he said.

The sheriff’s office screens the inmates for the program and only allows people without felonies or without violent charges to participate. They also cannot have any outstanding warrants against them and have to be physically capable of performing manual labor.

“I have quite a list of people who want to volunteer,” Barrett said.

Josh Fitzpatrick, who lives next to the park at 15 Putnam St., was pleased to see the fields put back in use. The fields haven’t been used in at least a year and were in need of improvement.

“It’s about time they cleaned it up,” he said.

Fitzpatrick used to play baseball at the park and loved to go there when games were under way to grab some food.

“I used to come outside and smell burgers and french fries cooking. Now, I will be able to smell them again,” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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