Baseball fans, players, coaches and community leaders reflected on Woodstock's remarkable baseball history on July 9 and 10, honouring the sport's leaders, including local baseball legend Dale Allen.
As part of a two-day event, people gathered at the Best Western Woodstock Friday evening, July 9, to pay tribute to a handful of Woodstock's long-time coaches and builders.
Saturday became a day devoted to baseball and Allen, with all age levels of the Shiretowner baseball programs taking the field to face opponents from Fredericton Minor Ball in doubleheaders as part of Dale Allen Appreciation Day.
Friday's meet and greet took on a decidedly festive spirit. Laughter rang throughout the room as guests of all ages gathered to celebrate the sport and especially to honour the lives of those whose dedication left a lasting impact.
Attendees included Matt Clark, who used to work for Baseball NB. His father, John Clark, is a former president of Woodstock Minor Baseball,
"I grew up playing baseball, and while I never had Dale as a coach, I always heard about the Shiretown heyday. I got to work at a summer clinic with Dale, though, in 2012 or 2013."
Legendary Woodstock basketball coach David Daye, who shares a spot on the Woodstock Sports Wall of Fame, reflected on his life-long relationship with Allen.
"I have known Dale since high school — we played basketball together. Eventually, we both became teachers and were involved in baseball together — he coached, and I was an umpire for the Woodstock Shiretowners. Dale was an outstanding coach — and not just baseball, but for basketball, too."
Woodstock Minor Baseball president Steven Jones welcomed the large crowd to Friday's event.
"The focal point for this evening is to tell stories and to honour four men who have made baseball so vital for kids for many years," Jones said.
Woodstock Mayor Art Slipp welcomed attendees and reflected on Dale Allen's legacy.
"Dale had a tremendous impact on the community, which went beyond baseball. This day (Dale Allen Appreciation Day) is warranted well beyond what he did on the baseball diamond."
The ceremony continued with four presentations recognizing four local coaches who dedicated many years to Woodstock baseball. Each honoree, including Dale, his brother Paul Allen, Dr. Dale MacElwain and the late Barney Wright, was awarded a handmade baseball bat from Jonny O Handcrafted Bats from Woodstock.
The first presentation recognized Dr. MacElwain, with his sons, Peter and Dave, presenting the bat.
They recounted stories from a life spent enjoying baseball under the guidance of "Doc Mac" as a father and coach.
"Doc Mac was dedicated, knowledgeable, and one of the best coaches in the game," said Peter.
As he accepted the Jonny O bat, Dr. MacElwain thanked the attending guests.
"I have been in this town now for 52 years, and I've been involved in baseball for a long time," he said. "I feel that I don't deserve an award for doing something that I love to do."
Michael Wright, son of the late Barney Wright, shared memories of his father's time as a coach, including his many championship seasons.
"I'm just thrilled to be a part of this," said Wright, joking that he knew guests would rather hear from his brother Andrew Wright, who works for the New York Yankees as Director of their Dominican Republic Baseball Operations.
"I was coached by all four of the men we're honouring here tonight, and I played with all their sons, too," said Wright.
Dwight Schriver presented the bat to Paul Allen.
"I want to thank you for your time, the years you gave, and the sacrifice," he told Paul. "Thank you for being such a great role model for all of us."
Paul described himself as the one who gained the most over his years in baseball.
"There are so many people I would never have met had it not been for baseball. I am the winner here," he said.
The evening's focus turned to Dale Allen, who could not attend the ceremonies because of the impact of Parkinson's disease.
Calling him "Mr. Baseball," Jones recalled how Dale Allen brought the Shiretowners together and created a winning team.
He said Allen left behind an impressive "coaching tree," full of people he had mentored, coached directly, or coached beside.
Jones read a quote from former major league coach and executive Dave Jauss, who described Dale Allen as a "strong man of principle who loved his family and his team."
Dale's daughter Jill said her father raised "gentlemen baseball players,"
"You had to have respect," she said. "It is so nice to see so many people here, knowing the impact that Dad had on them."
She said her father's heart remains with baseball.
"My mom wanted me to mention that even now, in his condition, when the baseball game is on, he will talk to the pitcher on TV."
Peter reflected on a trip with his father to Cooperstown, NY, where Peter's son was playing. He explained Dale had disappeared. He found him in the dugout charting pitches.
Like his sister, Peter recounted Dale's ability to mould young people into good adults.
"Dad didn't just create ball players. He helped make good husbands, colleagues, and fathers."
Dale Allen Appreciation Day at Dale Allen Field
Perfect baseball weather and a large crowd greeted Dale Allen Appreciation Day at Woodstock ballparks, culminating with a ceremony at Shiretown Field, now displaying a sign renaming it the Dale Allen Field at Connell Park.
Shiretowner minor ball teams from U11 through U18 played rival Fredericton Royals in double headers throughout the day. It began at 10 a.m. with the U11 at Jeff Clarke Field, with Dr. Dale MacEwain throwing the ceremonial opening pitch.
Former Woodstock baseball star and coach Bob English threw the opening pitch for the U13 game at Ryan Taylor Field.
Mike Wright and Sarah Maher shared the ceremonial-pitch honours to open the U15 game at the Barney Right Field.
The day culminated with a ceremony recognizing Dale Allen between games of the U18 doubleheader at the newly named Dale Allen Field.
Dale's wife Lorraine, daughter Jill, son Peter and brother Paul joined MC Steven Jones around the mic in front of the pitcher's mound. Also on hand were Mayor Art Slipp, NB. Senior Baseball President Ed Jeffries and Dale's friend and fellow coach Dave Lenehan, who was at Dale's side as they built the Shiretowner program.
Both teams lined the base baths between first and third bases, while more than two dozen people who played for, coached with or felt the impact of Dale Allen's dedication over the years lined up along the first-base line.
As he did at the meet-and-greet the previous night, Mayor Slipp praised Dale Allen not only for his remarkable baseball accomplishments but his significant contributions to the community, education, health care and more in the region.
NB. Senior Baseball president Ed Jeffries praised Allen, describing him as a special person on and off the diamond.
"Dale is the best individual you could ever meet," he said.
Paul Allen shared a quote he believed summed up his brother's accomplishments as a "great" coach.
"Good coaches can win a game," he said. "Great coaches can change a life."
In a few words before throwing the ceremonial opening pitch, Dale's son Peter shared tales about Dale as a coach and a father. He explained the philosophy remained similar. He preached sportsmanship, dedication, kindness and hard work.
— With files from Sandra Hanson, River Valley Sun
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun