New Hopkins Academy athletic fields nearing completion

The varsity baseball and softball fields at Hopkins Academy in Hadley remained under construction earlier this week.

The varsity baseball and softball fields at Hopkins Academy in Hadley remained under construction earlier this week. STAFF PHOTO/GARRETT COTE

The varsity baseball and softball fields at Hopkins Academy in Hadley remained under construction earlier this week.

The varsity baseball and softball fields at Hopkins Academy in Hadley remained under construction earlier this week. STAFF PHOTO/GARRETT COTE

The varsity baseball and softball fields at Hopkins Academy in Hadley remained under construction earlier this week.

The varsity baseball and softball fields at Hopkins Academy in Hadley remained under construction earlier this week. STAFF PHOTO/GARRETT COTE

By CONNOR PIGNATELLO

Staff Writer

Published: 05-02-2024 9:06 PM

HADLEY – The red shed off to the side of the Hopkins Academy softball field has seen some use. 

For decades, Golden Hawks baseball and softball pitchers used it as a backstop in pregame warmups. But now, with construction on a new athletic field complex nearing completion, those players won’t have to use the shed anymore.

They’ll get bullpens in foul territory.

Bullpens are just one added amenity to Hopkins Academy’s new athletic fields, which should be completed by the end of May, athletic director Fred Ciaglo said. Though the varsity softball field won’t be ready by the end of the season, Ciaglo hopes the baseball field will be ready for use by senior day in mid-May, pending final approval. If it is approved, Hopkins Academy and its baseball team led by nine seniors are hoping to host a few games on the brand-new field as they try to reach the MIAA Division 5 Final Four for the third time in four years.

Ciaglo said the new complex will not only upgrade the fields themselves, but it will also allow the middle school, JV and varsity teams for fall and spring sports to all practice in the same place for the first time. There will be JV and varsity fields for softball and baseball, and in the fall, Hopkins Academy will use the space for three soccer fields.

“There were always issues and some things that we were working with and had to work around,” Ciaglo said. “This will eliminate a lot of that.”

The Golden Hawks baseball team backloaded their home games in preparation for a April 29 home opener. However, weather caused construction delays and Hopkins Academy has been forced to play several “home” games on the road. When they secured a 10-9 walkoff win against Greenfield on Tuesday, they were actually on the road.

Hopkins Academy softball played its first home game on Monday and used the JV field, which was finished earlier in the year. They will continue to play on the JV field for the duration of the season.

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After nearly a decade of work planning and fundraising for the project, the fields are 90% there, Ciaglo said. And Ciaglo intends on maintaining them well. Hopkins Academy is planning on purchasing a Sand Pro for the infield dirt, which is sourced from the same spot as Fenway Park and Polar Park.

The fields are irrigated now, and a full drainage system includes channels every 20 feet. The grass is sourced from Savage Farms in Deerfield and the contracting company on the project, Omasta Landscaping, is run by Hopkins Academy alums.

Both varsity fields are receiving brand-new scoreboards and bleachers are set to be installed shortly. The fields are positioned so that fans can also watch games from the small hill that surrounds the fields. Between the hill and the field, a walking path surrounds the complex. 

Now that the JV and varsity fields are right next to each other, baseball coach Dan Vreeland said it’ll be easier for him to keep up with the JV games. The new setup will also make it easier for parents with children on multiple teams to watch multiple games on the same afternoon.

Before the renovations, Hopkins Academy’s teams often had to practice or play games away from the school. They’ve played at Hadley Elementary, Beachgrounds Park and the Young Men’s Club. When the construction is complete, they’ll all be able stay at Hopkins Academy for games and practices.

“That’s a big part of it,” Ciaglo said. “To have all the kids here. They’ll all practice here.”

Home runs to left field will no longer go into the cornfield in the neighboring farm. Hopkins traded land with the farm to make sure the four fields are contiguous. Under the previous setup, Ciaglo was reluctant to schedule softball and baseball games at the same time because foul balls from the baseball field could enter the field of play on the softball field. 

Now, the fields are oriented with their outfields facing each other. Hopkins Academy will install pop-up fences in both outfields and fill the space in between with spray seed to get it ready for soccer season in the fall.

The baseball field is almost ready to play on and the infield dirt has been put down. The pitcher’s mound is starting to take shape. Soon, foul lines will be painted and the Golden Hawks hope to finish out the season with their first home games in a year.

“That would just be one more cherry on top,” Vreeland said. “One more leg up we have on the competition to have this new, beautiful surface that will hopefully be here for generations to come.”