The largest park in all of Sea Cliff, Clifton Park, has been a focal point of the village’s rich history of baseball for decades. It has been home to hundreds upon hundreds of Little League games, and although it has steadfastly served the community since its creation, the wear and tear brought on by natural and human activity are quite apparent here in 2019.
Although the fields are still usable and continue to be used, they are not in ideal shape for baseball. There are divots in the outfield, awkward lips throughout the infield can cause ground balls to move in directions they should not, there are large cracks in the clay around home plate and the benches are old and falling apart.
James Versocki, commissioner of the Sea Cliff Baseball & North Shore Softball Association, said the fields have not seen extensive repairs in about 30 years, something which he seeks to change. He said the fields don’t need to be overhauled. Instead, they just “need some love,” such as re-sodding the infield and reseeding the outfield.
Versocki’s son, Jonathan, an 11-year-old Little League catcher and infielder, said a revamped field would enable players to have an authentic baseball experience.
“It’d be amazing because we’d be able to play real baseball,” he said. “It would attract a lot more people to play.”
Jonathan spoke to the Village Board at its Kids Night meeting on July 8, letting them know of just how important it would be for Sea Cliff’s Little Leaguers to have better fields for their home games. While his father described it as a “proud dad moment,” Jonathan said it meant a lot to him that village officials listened to what he had to say.
“I felt proud afterwards because I felt I put it in their mindset for them to think about it,” he said.
One of those village officials was Village Administrator Bruce Kennedy, who said baseball has been one of the great pastimes of Sea Cliff, and it is important to allow that to continue into the future with improved playing fields.
“Clifton Park is never going to be Shea Stadium,” said Kennedy, “but we can certainly do a better job . . . to make it easier for these kids to learn the basics of baseball.”
Kennedy said he has reached out to Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, a Democrat from Glen Cove, to work on submitting a proposal to Nassau County’s Community Development Block Grant Program. This would enable county legislators to consider providing funding to the village for the necessary repairs to the park.
DeRiggi-Whitton said the grant process is in its infancy right now and can take roughly two years to come to fruition, but she is looking forward to bringing the proposal before her fellow legislators.
“I think it will be a project that we would love to see get done,” she said. “[The park] could use some help.”
The Sea Cliff Civic Association has volunteered to replace the bleachers at Clifton Park, many of which are broken and likely will not hold up much longer. Ann DiPietro, the civic president, said she and her colleagues have designated money to have the bleachers replaced and hopes to see them set up soon. She said Clifton Park is not only a place for local children to play baseball, but it also serves as the epicenter of most of Sea Cliff’s inland outdoor events. This will include a huge picnic on Sept. 7, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the village’s welcome-home picnic for soldiers returning from World War I.
“The park is, in many ways, the heart of our outdoor activities,” said DiPietro. “When we’re not at the beach, we’re at Clifton Park.”
Versocki said he is hopeful that the funding Clifton Park needs will come with time. He said this maintenance would enable the fields to go without significant repairs for about 20 years or so, benefitting Sea Cliff’s Little Leaguers far into the future. Considering how important the park is to the community, he said it would be a good representation of how the village can rally around the preservation of its history.
“When you put a lot of time and effort into something,” Versocki said, “you want your community to reflect that.”
Anybody who would like to donate to the Sea Cliff Baseball & North Shore Softball Association’s field improvement drive can do so at www.scbaseballsoftball.com.