Cloudy future for Park League

America’s oldest organized amateur baseball league — the Boston Park League — begins its 64th season tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Kelly Field in Hyde Park when the defending champion Towne Club meets the ADSL/Avi Nelson team in the traditional league opener.

Nine teams will play a 32-game schedule, according to Park League president Bob Powers, who, despite optimism about the caliber of competition, expressed pessimism about the league continuing to stay afloat financially after the 1993 season.

“We’re still attracting some of the top players in the Greater Boston area and beyond,” said Powers, “but their opportunity to play in this league beyond this year may be in jeopardy. We’re facing serious financial difficulty because of major reductions in funding {from the City of Boston} and services.”

According to Powers, the league — which consists of former professional players, current college and past college players and a few high school standouts — will survive financially this year, “but if we don’t get a corporate sponsor or find an alternative method of funding, the chances of survival past next year are slim at best.”

The league receives some money from an anonymous donor and through its annual banquet and fund-raiser to be held next November at Lombardo’s in Randolph, “but even with those sources,” he said, “we’re operating at a $10,000 annual deficit, which could put the league out of business by the end of the 1993 season.”

Unlike the Cape Cod League, which is subsidized by major league baseball, the Boston Park League is almost on its own.

Its $16,500 in umpire fees for this season must be paid for by the teams, “and it takes between $22,000 and $25,000 annually to run the league, for which we’re able to raise about $13,000,” added Powers, “and what we used to get from Bud or from the city would make up most if not all of that deficit.”

The league received financial help from Bud Light in the ’80s before the city stepped back in to fund the league through 1990.

“But the city went through budget cuts to the point where all it can provide now are the fields and some limited services,” said Powers, “and field maintenance, which used to occur on a regular basis, has now been reduced to approximately once per week per field. It’s not a knock on the city or the Park Department, it’s just a financial reality.

“But it doesn’t take away from the quality of play or the dedication of the athletes,” said Powers, a former Hanover High and University of Massachusetts infielder/pitcher who retired as a Park League player in 1985, has been league president for three years and manages the Great Scott club. “We’re also great — and free — entertainment on a summer night.”

Great Scott and the Larkin Club play out of Cleveland Circle field in Chestnut Hill; Towne Club and Hyde Park Sports have Kelly Field in Hyde Park as a home base; Mass. Envelope and Triple D’s will have home games at the recently renovated Stewart Diamond at Fallon Field in Roslindale; Palmer Mobil and ADSL/Nelson play their home games at Casey Town Field in Dorchester, while the league’s newest entry, the Brighton Dodgers, play out of Rogers Park in Brighton.

The teams will play their games each weeknight through late August and there is no admission fee, just the traditional passing of the hat during the sixth inning — a tradition that will take on added significance this summer.

Copyright © 1992 Boston Globe, all rights reserved. Written by Marvin Pave.

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