Siena baseball game relocated to Central Park gives Rossi opportunity for fond memories

Siena's Kobe Stenson is tagged out at third by Saint Peters' Chris Marquart on Friday at Buck Ewing Field, where longtime Siena manager Tony Rossi played all the way back to his Little League days.
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Siena's Kobe Stenson is tagged out at third by Saint Peters' Chris Marquart on Friday at Buck Ewing Field, where longtime Siena manager Tony Rossi played all the way back to his Little League days.

SCHENECTADY — The 78-year-old Tony Rossi — in his 53rd (53rd!) season coaching the Siena baseball team — was telling ancient tales of Buck Ewing Field, also known as Central Park’s ‘A’ Diamond, on Friday afternoon.

The Saints’ field on campus is still showing the effects of underground winter upheaval, so Siena relocated its game against Saint Peter’s to Schenectady to take advantage of the artificial turf that was installed in 2018. 

Rossi grew up on Front Street in Schenectady, played for Northside Little League and continued to ride his bike to Central Park even after his family moved to Colonie when he was 13. He also played here in the Schenectady Twilight League.

So he’s got tales.

“Now, are you remembering all this in black and white, or color?” Siena assistant athletic director/communications Mike Demos joked before the game, an 8-1 Siena win.

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“Ha ha ha,” Rossi drily answered. “Black and white.”

The venue shift gave Rossi a chance to recall his old haunting grounds, where he has watched some high school games over the years, but hadn’t visited in a competitive sense in over 40 years. And while he admired the job that has been done renovating the ‘A’ Diamond, renamed after Buck Ewing in 1983, it was with a wistful nod to a time long ago, when there were deeper dimensions in the outfield, lights for night games, a grandstand with a press box on the roof and crowds of 1,000-plus.

“We’d draw good crowds in here when I used to play,” Rossi said, referring to the Schenectady Twilight League team sponsored by WPTR in the early 1960s. “We had Eddie Barnowski, who pitched in the big leagues with the Orioles; Joey Loudis at second base; Dick Sims, a Niskayuna guy who was in the Yankees organization; Donnie Pepper at first base, who was with the Detroit Tigers … this team was loaded.

“And we’d play our games here, great games, and great crowds. The St. Johnsville Saints would come in here, Phil Schoff and his brothers …”

The Schenectady slice of baseball heaven also included McNearney Stadium just on the other side of State Street, where the Schenectady Blue Jays of the Class A Eastern League (including Tommy Lasorda for one season) played until 1957.

Rossi said that any time Northside Little League had a game in Central Park and the Blue Jays were playing that night, he’d play his game, then join his father, who had one Blue Jays season ticket, and take the seat next to him at McNearney.

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After Rossi got out of high school, he continued to play on the ‘A’ Diamond with the Kral AC.

“I eventually ran the Kral AC and played all our games here, then the Sons of Italy took it over, and I ran it until I was 37,” he said.

“It was awesome. We played all good clubs. We brought teams in from all over. Played leagues here, regional tournaments, good crowds, the grandstands were here for the pro league, when Buck Ewing played.”

Usually on the rare occasion that Siena has post-winter field issues, the team moves home games to RPI.

It was a little longer drive this time, but gave Rossi a welcome opportunity to travel back in time.

While his team warmed up, the music over the PA segued to AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” as Rossi looked at the dark green Ewing Field turf and said, “To be honest with you, I love this, but I wish it was the old, perfectly manicured ‘A’ Diamond. The way it was.

“We were just talking about it, me and [retired longtime parks maintenance supervisor] Bill Macejka, and I was saying, ‘Yeah, Bill, this frickin’ place was pristine.’ Grass cut perfect, the mound, everything was nice and neat, no rocks in there …

“Just perfect.”

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Categories: College Sports, Schenectady, Siena College, Sports

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