By Erin O'Connor
WESTFIELD - Jim Bouton, a former Yankee's pitcher and author of "Ball Four," was in Westfield April 25 announcing the first national vintage baseball World Series and the proposal of a 19th Century ballpark for the city.
Bouton, CEO of the Vintage Baseball Federation, took the opportunity to unveil architectural designs of the 5,000 seat, multi-use 19th century replica ballpark he has proposed for Westfield.
"It is an exciting opportunity introduced to us," Mayor Richard K. Sullivan said. "Jim came to us this year introducing the playoffs and the World Series and we are excited."
The regional playoffs will take place in July at Bouland's Field and will be followed by the World Series. Bouton said the games would feature young players from vintage baseball clubs coming from areas that include California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire and Vermont.
"A great place for it [is] in Westfield," City Councilor Joe Wynn said to Reminder Publications. "Westfield is a baseball town. It [ball park] is an economic engine and is family orientated."
Bouton said the park would have the charms and values of vintage baseball with 19th century rules.
"It is a game but also a step back in time. The values were better then. It was a time when baseball was the gentleman's game," he added.
The visual Bouton painted for the audience was one of young men wielding bats and baggy uniforms.
"It is more than a baseball game it is a theatrical experience," he said. "It will be a running game characterized by flying around the bases and inside park homeruns. It can be characterized by what it doesn't have, no earrings, no arguing with the umpire, no shin guards, just baseball. It will be a step back in time. We will create a venue at the park where people say, 'What century is this?'"
Bouton said he would like the games to feature a barbershop quartette, vendors in costumes, pickle barrels and more.
"It is as much as a festival as it is a baseball game," he said.
Bouton said the designs for the 19th Century Ball Park are drawn from all of the best ballparks in history and that old stadiums such as Fenway are part of the inspiration
"I am hoping this gets built in the city. I know the city is very interested and I hope to get it done within the next few years," Bouton said.
According to the ballplayer turned businessman, he was previously going to invest in Pittsfield for the park but some of the people in the city did not like the idea and he was looking for the support of the entire community.
"There is no question, this is going to have to be privately funded," Sullivan said. "There is not enough city money."
Sullivan said there has been interest from private investors in the project.
Bouton said his goal is to raise the profile of vintage baseball. He said there are currently 250 teams in the country and he would like to see 30,000 teams by staging high profile events.
The Federation is currently "manning the globe" for more vintage teams that will want to participate in the series.
The World Series will be presented Aug. 16 at Bouland's Field.
Two weeks prior there will be seven games played that will include Westfield's own Wheelmen. Bouton said $10,000 in prizes will be awarded during the games.
Tickets will be sold exclusively through Westfield Bank. MassMutual is a sponsor of the event and the Boys and Girls Club is assisting in preparations.