Friends Of Doubleday Present
MANY Friends Aim To Raise
$800,000 To Complete Redo
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Where some people saw scraps, Jeff Katz and Quinton Hasak saw a fundraising opportunity.
“When the demolition of the third-base bleachers started, the question arose about what we were going to do with them,” said former mayor Jeff Katz, now president of the Friends of Doubleday. “They’re not the original bleachers, but they’re still a thing from the field.”
Someone offered to buy the entire pile for $1,000. “It wasn’t ours to sell, but even so, not for that little,” said Katz. “It’s worth more than fill.”
Though they had toyed with the idea of benches, but Katz thought they might be too difficult to stabilize. But one weekend, Hasak took some of the wood home and made a picnic table.
“He said he thought he could make more,” he said. “And they cost less than a normal metal picnic table.”
The picnic tables are now for sale for $500, local pick-up only. “So far we’ve had orders for seven,” said Katz. “One couple, whose wedding I officiated as Mayor, is coming up this fall to pick up theirs!”
Katz joined the Friends of Doubleday following his tenure as mayor, where he helped secure $5 million in funding to take on a $5.8 million renovation of the historic field. “It was one of the few things I wanted to do in my post-mayor life,” he said. “Knowing the history of the Friends and of the field, it helps.”
Of the total, $3 million came from The Empire State Development Corp., and $1 million each from former Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, and state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, leaving only $800,000 for the Friends to raise.
“Doubleday Field needs a fundraising arm,” said Katz. “In addition to projects, there are annual costs. For example, bird netting costs $20,000 – the Village raised it, but the Friends can help when the Village needs help with their fundraising.”
Though the Friends started in the early 1990s, the effort stalled for a time, before interest in Doubleday Field revived in 2010.
The Friends operate independent of the village, made up of volunteers and a board that includes Landmark Inn owner Fred Schneider, Hall Vice President/Communications Jon Shestakofsky, CEO Travis Chock, CEO of Baseballism, the high-end retailer, and Jeffery T. More of The Alpine Group, a national recruiter for the medical sector.
The renovations to the field are underway, and Katz believes they are on target for completion by Induction 2020, the 100th birthday of the field’s completion. “The new bleachers are gorgeous,” he said. “They’re more in line with what people expect nowadays from a baseball field.”
The top tier, he said, will be a pavilion for people to host parties. Additionally, the bleachers will be built to ADA accessibility standards. Raising $800,000 to close the final funding gap “is not insurmountable,” said Katz.
Victor Salvatore’s “Sandlot Kid” sculture, now next to Key Bank, will return home to the grassy area planned for the front of Doubleday Field. “If you look back at older photos, the Red Bursey playground was in front of the field,” he said. “We’re trying to get it back to that historical look.”
In addition to the benches and signed merchandise for sale on the Friends of Doubleday website, Katz has also started offering historic tours of the field, led by baseball experts Tom Heitz, the former Hall librarian; Pete Henrici, the veteran baseball merchant, and Ted Spencer, the Hall’s former chief curator and vice president.
“Sometimes, the myth gets in the way of a really good history,” Katz said. “The tours are more entertaining, they’re a living history.”
The tours, available by reservation, are held 8-9 a.m. every Wednesday and Thursday and take fans through the grandstand, into the dugout and then onto the historic field, where they can take pictures or take a run around the bases.
Taking the tour also gets you an exclusive pin, with the logo designed by Todd Radom, who has created logos for MLB teams, the Super Bowl and the Baseball Hall of Fame. The pin can also be received with a $50 donation to the Friends.
“We’re trying to do our part for Doubleday Field,” said Katz. “It has national renown. Now we’re saying, ‘can you help us?’”