Penn Charter's picture-perfect baseball facility officially opened on a picture-perfect spring day, and in front of a delighted crowd that represented every category of the PC community.
Head of School Darryl J. Ford stood on the pitcher's mound and welcomed them all — students, parents, teachers and coaches, OPCs, former parents, grandparents, and neighbors, too. "I welcome you to the opening ceremony of Palaia Field," Ford said. "I welcome you to our field of dreams."
Although brief, the opening celebration hit all the right notes. Looking imposing in their blue-on-white pinstripes, PC baseball players stood ceremonially along the first base line. Looking proud and spanning decades, former PC players lined the third base path. Ruben Amaro OPC '83, now an executive with the NY Mets, and Craig Sabatino OPC '74, principal and co-founder of Intech Construction, the company that built the facility, were tapped for ceremonial-pitch honors.
Seated in the infield were many special guests, including former coaches Allan Brown Hon. 1689 and Rick Mellor OPC '69, and Carolyn and Rich Palaia, the widow and the son of Ralph F. Palaia, for whom the field is named. The Palaias, Brown and Mellor received commemorative bats acknowledging their contributions to Penn Charter's baseball legacy. Brown coached for 11 years, with five Inter-Ac championships and a winning percentage of 62 percent; Mellor, who played for Brown, coached for 33 years and retired from PC baseball with the most wins in league history; Palaia coached for 17 years and won 14 Inter-Ac championships, including 11 straight from 1954-65.
"We are thrilled to honor these legendary coaches," Ford said. "In positive ways, they shaped their students, many of whom are here today."
The new facility, with an outfield that resembles the configuration of Citizens Bank Park, sits directly across School House Lane from the main campus. Spectators can look beyond the outfield to a vast and beautiful view of treetops stretching far into the distance. And, in the other direction, runners heading to home plate can look beyond to Penn Charter's iconic clock tower.
Ford thanked the donors to the field and the How Far? capital campaign, and explained that the field is the "enabling project" in a campus transformation that will make it possible for the school to achieve everything Penn Charter needs to remain and thrive in East Falls for decades to come. The baseball facility is the first of three major construction projects: next up is an Athletics and Wellness Center on the site of the old baseball field, followed by construction of a state-of-the-art lower school on the site now occupied by Dooney Field House.
"All of this," Ford said, "is in support of Penn Charter's Strategic Vision and in support of our daily efforts to educate students to live lives that make a difference."
Select from the playlist above to watch interviews with Mellor, Brown, the Amaro brothers, Sabatino, Jack Rogers, Beth Glascott, John Thiel, as well as the ceremony. Thanks to sports reporter Gabriella DiGiovanni OPC '13 for her excellent on-air contribution!
Photos on Flickr.
Alas, the Quakers fell to Neshaminy High School, 7-4. Inter-Ac play begins Tuesday, April 9, 4pm, when PC takes on EA on ... Palaia Field!
Welcome to Our Field of Dreams!