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May 3, 2002: Field of dreams now has a name

This column was published May 3, 2002:

Sometime next spring, that's the plan. Sometime when the grass greens up and the kids start coming out...when winter lets go, crying uncle...when the breeze freshens and there are no more razor blades in it, no more carving knives...

That's the moment, by golly. That's the moment when Coach comes down off his hill and his boys gather around and the place gets an ID at last, the place scores a handle after all these green years.

"The Field," they call the baseball facility for now, at Northrop High School.

"Chris Stavreti Field," they'll call it then, or maybe just "The Stav."

'Bout time.

'Bout time the man came down off his favorite hill beyond the left-field fence, took a slug of his coffee, took his bows at last.

Right, Coach?

"Nah, nah," Stavreti demurs. "I mean, I'm appreciative of it. We got things done we had to have done and we got it done right.

"But there's a lot of people took part in this."

And then of course he begins to list them for you, to grab your elbow and take you on an amiable Stav stroll. How John Griffith did this, and Jack Gordon that. How Ray Claxton wired the press box in his free time. How Steve Bercot brought in the heavy equipment and moved the dirt and sculpted a field of dandelions into a field of dreams out there just south of Cook Road.

And what did all these people have in common?

Well, Steve Bercot was family, one of Stav's wife's relatives.

And John Griffith's boy, Jeff, played for Stav.

And Ray Claxton's boy, Tim, played for him.

And Jack Gordon's daughter was one of Stav's batgirls.

So you see how it is. You see why Stav's a little humbled that it's his name going up on The Field, when the signatures of so many others are all over it.

"For the most part, we did it," Stavreti says. "The coaches, the players, the parents were all major contributors. When you look back at it, I feel good about the fact it was built pretty much by the program."

And yet...where is that program, without Chris Stavreti?

Where is it if he doesn't decide at the beginning that Northrop was going to play the best, that it was not just going to play the SAC teams, which were good enough in their own right, but also Richmond and Elkhart Memorial and Wabash?

Where is The Field if he doesn't decide that?

"You have to understand," says Park Ginder, who took over the program when Stav retired, after 26 seasons, in 1997. "At that time, not many teams had good fields. East Noble did, and DeKalb did, and beyond that there weren't many. So if you wanted to play the good teams, it was awful hard to get them to come play on a piece of junk field.

"That was a lot of the energy behind it."

The rest was the Northrop baseball family deciding to do it, and so The Field went up in 1981, right after Northrop finished runner-up at state. The press box wasn't ready until the summer of '82, but that spring they threw some grass seed down and they played, and they've been playing since.

Stav's last spring on The Field was '97, but you can still find him there from time to time, standing on the hill beyond left. He'll get a coffee and go up there and watch his Bruins for awhile, and it's like every other time in every other year, when he'd stand there with the kiss of spring or the sting of winter on his cheeks, and look down across the green grass and the beige infield and the brown cinder-block dugouts.

"You take better care of that field than you do your yard," his wife would tell him, on days like that.

"How can I take care of the yard in the spring when I'm coaching?" Stav would reply.

And so he'd go out there with a hose or a rake or just to think a bit, and now a piece of him will always be there. This week the school board approved putting his name on The Field, and next spring the sign will go up on the fence or the press box or maybe the big orange scoreboard out beyond the 350 sign in left.

Chris Stavreti Field.

Oh, yeah. You bet.

Ben Smith is a writer for The Journal Gazette. His columns appear Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

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