By Douglas Moser
---- — METHUEN — There is $150,000 included in the proposed state budget to install lights at the Pelham Street baseball diamond used by Methuen Youth Baseball and the freshmen and junior varsity high school baseball teams.
But, before there can be night games at the field, the budget item has to survive Gov. Deval Patrick’s veto power.
“This is the first step in revitalizing what we hope to see as a gateway baseball field for the city,” said Chris Cyr, president of Methuen Youth Baseball and coach of the freshman high school team.
Cyr said Pelham Street is the last of the three full-sized baseball diamonds in the city without lights for night games. The field at the high school and the one at Veterans Park, off Milk Street, both have lights.
The new lights, if the funding is approved, will allow games to start later and prevent backlogs or cancellations after wet springs like this past one. Cyr said he thought the Pelham Street field drains the best, despite its location near the Spicket River, making it available before the other fields.
“We lose a lot of games because we can’t keep those fields dry enough, especially the last couple springs we’ve had,” Cyr said. “It’s a short season until the summer leagues kick up. We lose games because of that.”
Methuen Youth Baseball has about 900 kids ages 13 to 18 in two playing seasons, with 18 teams for kids ages 13 to 16 in the spring and 30 teams including 17- and 18-year-olds in the summer. Lights at all three fields could mean the city could expand its offerings.
“By adding lights, it’s almost like adding a new field,” said Bill Pare, director of the Methuen Recreation Department. “With lighting you can double the programming.”
Cyr said Methuen Youth Baseball has raised more than $500,000 in the past for improvements to the fields, and with the installation of lights at Pelham Street hopes to begin another fund raising drive to improve the backstop, add fencing and install dugouts.
“Lights were really the first step so it would make it worthwhile to reinvest funds to put in a sprinkler system, replace the backstop and fencing,” he said.
State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, D-Methuen, included the funds in the budget. “This will allow us to play some games in evening, which will free up some of our fields,” she said.
If the governor, who can veto individual spending items in a budget passed by the Legislature, rejects the money, Campbell said she would consider asking her colleagues for an override, which would require two-thirds vote of each chamber of the Legislature.
Follow Douglas Moser on Twitter @EagleEyeMoser. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.