By John Toole
---- — Three men from Windham and Salem helped a Maine town choose a manager for a baseball stadium Sports Illustrated once called “the best little AAA park in the game.”
Bruce Breton, Jay Yennaco and Richard Dunn comprised a panel screening candidates for the job in Old Orchard Beach.
Breton is chairman of the Windham selectmen. Yennaco, a former Red Sox pitching prospect, owns Delahunty Nurseries and Florist in Windham. Richard Dunn is a retired Salem police lieutenant.
Old Orchard Beach Town Manager Mark Pearson, who commutes to Old Orchard from his home in Salem, asked the men to help advise the town.
“I’ve known Mark for 30 years,” Breton said. “He knows I’m a baseball fan and know how to do interviews.”
Pearson had worked on the Salem police force with Dunn before becoming a town manager. Breton said Pearson was once a finalist for the police chief’s job in Windham.
Pearson wanted an independent panel to help advise him on the selection of the ballpark manager, which he expects to announce later this week.
“They were independent and apolitical,” Pearson said. “Each one brought expertise to the decision-making process.”
Pearson said he valued Dunn’s experience as an administrator and investigator.
Breton not only had knowledge of town government, but of Griffin Park in Windham and the importance of volunteers for the success of a sports facility, Pearson said.
Yennaco, a member of Windham’s economic development committee, added small business perspective and professional baseball experience, as well as turf management knowledge.
“That was a homerun,” Pearson said.
Together, the panel’s opinion was trusted and respected by Pearson.
“They were my independent, objective eyes,” Pearson said.
The position of facility and field manager isn’t a fulltime job. It carries a $7,000 stipend. The manager will report to Pearson and has a lot of responsibilities, including balancing interests of the community, volunteers, a ballpark commission and the town council.
Pearson said the town was looking for someone who could make the stadium successful in terms of revenue.
“Not something the town has to spend money on every year,” he said.
The park, built in the early 1980s, has some history.
“We spent a whole day up there Monday. We toured the ballpark,” Breton said. “It has a rich history with the Maine Guides and they have a team in a collegiate baseball summer league.”
He recalled attending games at The Ballpark. Big a fan as he is, Breton was never a ballplayer.
“I was a wannabe ballplayer,” Breton, a big Red Sox fan, confessed.
The Ballpark served as home to the Cleveland Indians’ top minor-league club, the Maine Guides, during the 1980s.
Red Sox legend Oil Can Boyd once took the mound there for a reconditioning assignment, as did New York Mets great Dwight Gooden.
Cleveland eventually left The Ballpark. So did the Philadelphia Phillies, who based their AAA team in Old Orchard.
It has been a concert venue. Bob Dylan and Aerosmith are among the musicians who played there.
Abandoned for many years, volunteers in the town helped restore the ballpark, which is now home to the Raging Tide ballclub in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.
College stars play in the league, which Drew Weber, owner of the Lowell Spinners and New Hampshire Fisher Cats, is credited with helping to find.
Breton recalled the days after The Ballpark became rundown and trees sprouted at the field.
Now it looks as it did in the glory years that prompted national attention, he said.
“They put in thousands of hours of volunteer work,” Breton said. “It is pristine.”