J.P. Songin and his teammates at Fenway.

Like Songins before him, J.P. Can Play the Game

J.P. Songin is a perennial all-star in the Boston Park League. He also has a love-hate relationship with baseball.

“I love the game, especially hitting,’’ said the 36-year-old Norwood resident, a player-manager for the Palmer Club, “and I hate to strike out.’’

That motivation, according to league records kept since the 2007 season, has indeed brought out the best in Songin, who has fanned just 33 times in his last 651 at-bats while hitting .346.

A star at Walpole High who belted two homers in one game against Bay State Conference rival Natick his senior season in 1995, Songin went on to record a .402 average in his final year at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Ga. Read more

Harvey Soolman, JM Force

Soolman Manages To Live A Baseball Dream

Medford’s Harvey Soolman couldn’t make the Northeastern varsity baseball team, but he quickly found a home in the Park League.

Somewhere under the crumbling cement bleachers at Kelly Field in Hyde Park, Harvey -Soolman works his way through a sea of equipment and benches in the dark, finds a fuse box on the wall, and flicks a switch. The lights towering above the baseball diamonds begin to flicker in the twilight as the Little League field across the way enjoys the last few splashes of sunshine that the day will offer.

Soolman appears in the outfield, strolling out from behind the bleachers like a legend pushing his way out of the corn fields and onto the warning track of Ray Kinsella’s field in Iowa. He is in full uniform, with number 11 emblazoned in red on the back of his JM Force jersey, the team he manages in the Boston Park League. Read more

Kevin McGlinchy

Kevin McGlinchy Holds Out Hope For Another Shot At The Pros

Kevin McGlinchy made his Major League debut at age 21, in April 1999, with the Atlanta Braves. That October, he was on the mound at Yankee Stadium, pitching in the World Series. But his last big league appearance came when he was just 23.

Still, he has no regrets.

“Nah, I wouldn’t change anything,” said McGlinchy, drafted out of Malden High by the Braves in the fifth round of the 1995 first-year player draft. “Because then it would screw up the evolution of my life.

“But I feel like I could have done more. That’s why I’m still playing. I got four years in the majors and six years in the minor leagues. That’s a pretty good career so far.”

After several years of coaching, helping out alumni camps for the Major League Baseball Players Association, and giving private pitching instructions, the 34-year-old McGlinchy is pitching again. He was undefeated for Carlson of the Boston Park League. In 10 regular-season games he went 8-0 with a 0.76 ERA, racking up 76 strikeouts and just six walks in 59 1/3 innings. He allowed just one home run for the season. Read more

Jim Murphy, a retiree from West Roxbury, enjoyed a free front-row seat for a game at Fallon Field in Roslindale Wednesday night. ((Dina Rudick/Globe Staff)

Park League takes fans, players back … way back

It’s a sultry summer night, and the collision of wooden bats and hurtling baseballs echoes around the cozy grass amphitheater of Fallon Field in Roslindale.

“Nice throw, Danny!’’ barks Franz Strassmann, the coach of Grossman Marketing, which is battling to wrap up a playoff berth. Scattered applause ripples from the metal bleachers behind home plate and from lawn chairs perched along the foul lines.

This is the Boston Park League, the oldest continuing amateur baseball league in the country, and a throwback to a slower era when neighborhood and company teams drew rabid fans to simple ballparks without towering video screens, luxury boxes, and gourmet concessions.

They also had pretty good ballplayers, too. Read more

Mike Ross, Boston Padres

Ross Still Feared After A Decade In Park League

Boston Padres manager Ed Neal cannot remember how Foxborough’s Mike Ross ended up with his team nearly 10 years ago. But after all this time, he is happy Ross stuck around.

Ross was among the Padres’ leading hitters as he helped the team earn its first Boston Park League championship last month. The outfielder hit .376 this season and came up with several game-changing hits.

“Anytime he’s at the plate, you always know something special is going to happen,” Neal said. Read more

Needham native Hal Carey, head baseball coach at Catholic Memorial in West Roxbury, can’t stop playing the game. Eight years after hanging up his Harvard uniform (below), Carey is the shortstop for the Stockyard Club in the Boston Park League.

For The Love Of The Game

Though he last wore a Harvard University baseball uniform in the spring of 1999, Hal Carey still holds school records for career hits and stolen bases. The Needham native is still playing the game he loves, and playing it well, in the nation’s oldest continuous amateur baseball league.

Carey, head baseball coach at his high school alma mater, Catholic Memorial in West Roxbury, recently completed his 11th season in the Boston Park League as shortstop for the Stockyard Club, the runner-up in the league championship series last week to the Boston Padres.

A league all-star who batted .308 as one of the team’s elders at age 30, Carey played for the Park League’s All Dorchester Sports League team for three seasons while attending Harvard and the past eight years for the Walsh and Stockyard clubs. Read more

Joe Driscoll Foundation

More to Driscoll’s Life Than Umpiring

It was a playoff game between Reading and Tewksbury and the schedule-maker assigned two guys named Driscoll as the umpires. The base umpire, Joe Driscoll, seemingly had been around baseball forever, a veteran arbiter whom everybody trusted.

The plate umpire was Joe’s son, Todd. He was young, inexperienced. There were fears he’d make a bad call and blow the game. Read more

Some of the 30 who attended a recent Park League game in Roslindale.

A Faded Glory, But A Glory Of Summer Nonetheless

Tall, lanky left-hander Zak Smotherman throws a sharply curving breaking ball that would fool even the most skilled of hitters. The pitch stuns the right-handed batter, as the umpire bellows out the verdict for the handful of fans.

The batter, clearly upset, wipes the sweat off of his face with the sleeve of his Mass. Envelope jersey. He eyes Smotherman, of the Irish Village team, waiting patiently on the mound.

This is not a professional baseball game, but a hard-nosed match at Roslindale’s Fallon Field in what may be one of the best-kept secrets in the City of Boston.

The Boston Park League, which has for years combined some of Boston’s most talented baseball prospects with former stars whose glory had faded, is in its 76th year. Although it seems, at times, forgotten, the league endures, despite setbacks in attendance, facility maintenance, funding, and a reduced pool of top-notch players. Read more

Manny Delcarmen, Boston Red Sox

Local Boy Does Good

It was a scene from an earlier, simpler time, before the onslaught of cell phones, pagers and wide-screen, high-definition television. The Padres, a longtime entry in the Boston Park League, and in a scramble for the BPL’s two remaining playoff spots, had just emerged with a 6-3 victory over Cannon Club at Hyde Park’s Ross Field, but now the players, instead of celebrating their victory, were milling together in the parking lot, glued to their car radios, hanging on every word that barked from various speakers.

Incredible. People, standing together, focused, alert, listening to the radio. This is how folks heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Kennedy assassinations.

But in 2005, when and why do people hunker over … a radio? For these guys, the answer was simple: Manny Delcarmen, a product of Hyde Park, whose family’s house is just a few blocks from Ross Field, was making his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox. Read more

Umpire Walter Bentson

True Blue

The rules of etiquette in amateur baseball are quite clear in the matter of players losing their cool. You throw your helmet, you’re gone. You throw your bat, you’re gone. No discussion, no debates, no appeals.

But even very good umpires do not have eyes in the back of their heads. So let’s say a game is being played at, oh, Somerville’s Trum Field, and let’s say some Yawkey League hothead tries to turn his helmet into the Delta Shuttle after popping out to short, and let’s say that, at that precise moment, the plate umpire happens to be admiring the design of the Somerville Public Works Building, which is located out beyond the left field fence.

Under these circumstances, this is what happens: Nothing. The hothead gobbles up his helmet and returns to the bench, the next hitter steps up to the dish, the game continues.

Life goes on.

And so it is that we introduce Walter Bentson, a longtime umpire on the New England amateur baseball scene who has carved out a richly-deserved reputation as a hardball arbiter with that rare blend of keen eye, solid judgment and refreshing temperament. Read more