- Fred Lajoie, Cal Ripken Baseball Commissioner for New Hampshire tips his cap to the crowd following the dedication of Fred Lajoie Field Saturday, April 28, 2012. Staff photo by William Wrobel.
- Cal Ripken Baseball Commissioner Fred Lajoie inspects the new sign for Fred Lajoie Field during the dedication of the field Saturday, April 28, 2012.Staff photo by William Wrobel.
- Cal Ripken Baseball Commissioner Fred Lajoie speaks with Mayor Donnalee Lozeau prior to the dedication of Fred Lajoie field Saturday, April 28, 2012. Staff photo by William Wrobel.
- Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau declares April 28 "Fred Lajoie Day" during her speech at the dedication of Fred Lajoie Field Saturday, April 28, 2012. Staff photo by William Wrobel.
- Fred Lajoie, Cal Ripken Baseball Commissioner for New Hampshire looks out over the newly dedicated Fred Lajoie field in Nashua Saturday, April 28, 2012. Staff photo by William Wrobel.
- Nashua Little League players sit on the Fred Lajoie field infield during the dedication ceremony Saturday, April 28, 2012. Staff photo by William Wrobel.
- Fred Lajoie, Cal Ripken Baseball Commissioner for New Hampshire speaks to the crowd gathered to celebrate the dedication of Fred Lajoie Field in Nashua Saturday, April 28, 2012. Staff photo by William Wrobel.
- Nashua baseball players and families gather on the infield of Fred Lajoie Field during the dedication of the park to Cal Ripken Baseball Commissioner Fred Lajoie Saturday, April 28, 2012. Staff photo by William Wrobel.
Nashua baseball honors one of its own with Fred Lajoie Field
NASHUA – Every spring, Fred Lajoie makes his way down to the baseball diamond on Ledge Street for Opening Day. The Nashua native kicks off every season with a few words for Nashua’s Cal Ripken leaguers. He has done so for decades.
But that routine changed Saturday, when hundreds of residents and young ballplayers gathered to reveal the park’s new name: Fred Lajoie Field.
Lajoie, who wasn’t told about the ceremony until it began Saturday morning, was emotional and proud about the recognition.
“It was kind of a shock,” Lajoie said afterward. “I didn’t realize what kind of celebration they were planning.”
Lajoie, 73, has worked with youth and state baseball leagues for 44 years and helped build the field in 1972. He spoke next to many of his family members and tipped his white cap to the crowd.
“It’s something I never expected,” he said. “I just did this because it’s fun. I enjoy watching the kids play on the field. I didn’t expect anything special for doing it.”
The field was originally called Cal Ripken Major Field at Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park, located at the intersection of Ledge and 7th streets.
Frank McNally, a Nashua resident and current president of Nashua Central’s Cal Ripken League, said he put the request in several months ago to have the field renamed. Mayor Donnalee Lozeau and the Board of Aldermen were instrumental in getting the sign made and readying the ceremony for Opening Day.
“This is the stuff that makes the city great,” Lozeau told the crowd on Saturday. “Good things happen when you see what things can be, when you can turn a dirt field into something like this.”
Lajoie started as manager of the Nashua West Roofers in 1968. The youth baseball program had only six divisions, with about 300 kids participating throughout the state, he said.
Now, all the teams are named after major league clubs – such as the Dodgers, Athletics, Braves and Cardinals. And as one of New Hampshire’s state commissioners for the Babe Ruth League, Lajoie helped expand the programs to its 22,000 young players in the state today, McNally said.
Part of that was Lajoie’s commitment to a successful program, even in a changing world. As technology modernized, Lajoie learned how to build team websites and communicate via email, McNally said.
Lajoie’s dedication to the city and all of New Hampshire’s youth baseball leagues is something to be admired, McNally said.
“He started here and he built this field,” McNally said of Lajoie. “He’s just such an inspiration. I’m proud to have worked with him over all these years.”
Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow Kittle on Twitter (@Telegraph_CamK).