Safe At Home
Marra, Diethrick Ready For Baseball’s Return To City
Tom Marra walked toward the first-base dugout at Diethrick Park on Friday morning with Russell E. Diethrick Jr. following close behind. Together, they turned toward the infield and smiled broadly. To say the two men looked right at home would be an understatement.
Diethrick, of course, should feel that way.
First, his name is on the front of the building. Secondly, during a photo opportunity among supporters, investors and front office personnel of the Jamestown Jammers moments before, it was Diethrick’s two feet that were planted squarely on home plate as photographers preserved the moment for posterity.
Meanwhile, Marra, a 1976 Southwestern Central School graduate, a Jammers’ investor with Jamestown Community Baseball LLC and a lifelong lover of America’s pastime, has had a soft spot for the ballpark on Falconer Street since he first played on the field as a teenager in the 1970s. He even remembered the night when he experienced the vastness of the outfield first hand during the County-Grape Belt League All-Star Game at the park then known as College Stadium.
“I was an infielder, but they put me in center field, because it’s the all-star game and you just have to get guys in,” he said. “This guy from Stockton hits this towering shot out to the 414-foot (mark). I’m not an outfielder (normally), plus, with the lights, I’m running around and running around and the ball goes right over my head. I think I did two 360s. Fortunately, I had a good arm, I threw it and I held him to a (double).”
More than 40 years have passed since that game was played, but Marra remembered it like it was yesterday.
“It (should have been) a routine flyout,” he admitted.
Nevertheless, that outfield adventure hasn’t altered Marra’s feelings about the ballpark that first opened in 1941. In fact, he’s especially excited about the return of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League in 2020.
“This is a real stadium with history and character,” he said. “The fact this is a community-run team, a community-owned team with the broad group of people in charge and new, young leadership, I think this is going to be a really good venture.”
Marra knows of what he speaks.
He and his wife are the former owners of the Mystic (Connecticut) Schooners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. During their ownership, they renovated a former high school diamond, added lights and ultimately came away with a championship in 2016.
“These leagues do better when you bring a little bit of that minor-league atmosphere with the family-friendly activities in between innings, but the baseball also has to be good,” Marra said. “These college kids are really good and put on a good display of quality baseball. You still have the fun and the family activities for the young (fans), but for the aspiring youngster who is looking to learn the game and who plays the game, it’s great for that, too.”
Marra also sees great value in the quality of collegiate summer baseball and the passion the players have for winning.
“We follow a lot of our former (Mystic players) who are now in the minor leagues,” he said. “They’ll tell you the first thing: there’s indifference what your team is in the standings in the minor leagues, whereas in the collegiate league, they really want to win.
“We’re third in the division right now and only three teams make the playoffs. The kids talk about it openly. They want to make the playoffs. We were lucky to win in 2016 and the kids got rings, and that’s really a big deal to those kids.”
Judging from the turnout at Diethrick Park yesterday morning, it’s apparent that their enthusiasm for the 2020 Jammers’ season is already a big deal, too.