Baseball Clinic Facilities Sought In Harwich

by William F. Galvin

HARWICH – Will youth baseball lessons, clinics and camps be a future Harwich recreational activity?

That was a question posed to the recreation and youth commission last week by Steven Almonte of Cape Cod Baseball Club, a for-profit organization seeking to lease indoor and outdoor facilities from the town to teach baseball and softball to Lower Cape kids.

Almonte is the owner and lead instructor of the company that has been teaching the sports from a Bourne facility since 2009; he previously operated a similar business on the South Shore for several years.. He is now seeking to expand the programs to the Lower Cape.

“The bottom line is kids on the Lower Cape need quality baseball and softball programs,” said Almonte. “I want to provide sorely missed programming.”

There is a lack of baseball instruction opportunities on the Lower Cape, according to Almonte. Some participants come to his Bourne facilities from as far away as Truro, he said.

He expressed interest in the facilities inside and outside the 204 Sisson cultural center, whose mission statement addresses recreation as a way of bringing the community together. Almonte said he would like to conduct training indoors from November to March and outdoor camps and clinics during the spring and summer. The programs would be set up for kids from five to 18 years of age.

The use of the gym in 204 Sisson has been taken off the table, said Recreation and Youth Commission Chair Vahan Khachadoorian. The reason for denial was that nothing can be attached to the building, and the batting cages Almonte uses would have required placing lag bolts in the walls and drilling into the floors, Commission member John Mahan said.

The batting cages would slide out of the way making room for other uses of the gym, and the bolt holes could be filled and holes in the floor covered and finished, Almonte said, adding that he would put money in an escrow account for that work.

As for use of the baseball field adjacent to the cultural center, it was agreed major maintenance would be necessary to make it playable. Khachadoorian said an estimate from the department of public works put the cost at $100,000. He asked if Almonte was willing to invest that much money into the project. Almonte said he was not, but added that the restoration of the field could be done in a much less costly manner using stone dust and that he would cut the grass.

Commission members were drawn to the proposal, but agreed additional discussions are necessary regarding use of the gym and field maintenance and costs.

“I love the proposal, but maintenance needs to be discussed. I think the outdoor use is a great idea,” said commission member Brian Wentworth.

“We could start the program outdoors while the indoor kinks get worked out,” agreed commission member Leah Mercurio.

Recreation Director Eric Beebe said there are other ballfields, such as Veterans Memorial Field behind the community center, that could be leased for use.

Select Board member Jeffrey Handler said he has known Almonte for 40 years and called him a consummate professional. Handler said he has been to Almonte’s facilities in Bourne and they are exceptional.

Almonte has a bachelor's degree in recreation and leisure services from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., where, as a pitcher, his team was the Sunshine State Conference Champions. He is also director of the Cape Cod Riptide Travel Baseball Team.

“My feeling is the field needs attention, it’s a municipal asset and some money should be directed to it,” said Handler. “It will generate money for the town, and this is a fantastic entity.”

Select Board Chair Julie Kavanagh said the issue of use of the gym could be brought back to the select board for additional discussion.

The commission approved a motion supporting outdoor use of the ballfield as a start of the program.