The cheers from the girls softball side of the Pantigo ball fields were loud the night before last, louder, in fact than for the boys, who were playing on the opposite side. Off to one side of home plate, I kept track of the pitch count in my son’s team’s game against the Montauk Fire Department.
Ellis is on the Police Benevolent Association team, after several years with Amagansett. Disappointed at the beginning of the season that he would not be with his buddies for his last year of Little League eligibility, this season he is at third base, a promotion from his familiar center-field outpost that he had had in Amagansett. Kenny Dodge, the P.B.A. coach, has done a remarkable job bringing this kid who scarcely knew the rules of baseball along as an infielder. A sign of success, Ellis pressured me into buying him a proper mitt for his new position.
I happened to drive by the Pantigo fields the other day, just as a group was getting set for a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Southampton Hospital adjunct that will begin construction there this summer. It made me sad, then angry that a place of so many memories — for me and countless others — was going to be built upon and paved over. I was angry, too, that the plan is for new baseball and softball fields to be on a site off Stephen Hand’s path on the outskirts of Wainscott, unacceptably far from where most of the town’s young ballplayers live and go to school.
Personally, I am indifferent in the debate over whether the new fields should have artificial grass. What steams me most is that the Pantigo fields are going away to be replaced with a satellite of a hospital that is itself a satellite and for which its actual value as the promised “emergency room” seems overstated and which should have been put elsewhere. Ambulance volunteers tell me in private that in any serious cases they will head straight for Southampton anyway.
I am also disappointed at the sneaky way the town board kept quiet then voted to “alienate” the parkland on which the ball fields were built, then got the State Legislature and governor to go along, then on top of that broke state law by not acquiring new, additional parkland, as required.
Ellis will move on, maybe playing ball in high school, maybe not, but the sore spot for me about these favorite fields will last a long, long time.