Kiwanis donate $25k to renovate Wilton Little League field at YMCA

WILTON — Two generations later, the Wilton Kiwanis Club’s care for kids is still evident.

Last week, the club pledged $25,000 to complete renovations to the Bill Terry Field — one of two Wilton Little League fields located at the Wilton Family YMCA on Danbury Road — as part of its Signature Community Building Project.

“Kiwanis really came through very generously,” said Martin Avallone, board secretary for Wilton Little League. “It’s going to sort of close the gap on what we needed to get the job done.”

Following storm damage that ruined the backstop at the field, Wilton Little League set out to raise funds to make replacements, hoping to add new fencing around the field and also a new scoreboard.

“Bill Terry had done so much with his time and effort to support Wilton Little League,” said Andrew Castellano, the league’s vice president, acknowledging the role of Kiwanis as well.

“It’s fitting that his mini field of dreams (is) getting a proper facelift,” he added.

It was, in fact, the Kiwanis Club that donated the very land on which the fields are situated in to the YMCA in the 1950s. The land is still known as Wilton Kiwanis Park and continues to play home to the group’s summertime meeting at the Tompkins Pavilion on the grounds.

While the YMCA has always retained ownership of the land, it has continually offered Wilton Little League use of the fields gratis with the proviso that it maintain them.

The Clem Young Field, which serves some of Wilton Little League’s younger players, is adjacent to the Terry Field, which is for players in the Majors, ages 11 and 12.

“They essentially kind of renewed partnership, realizing we needed some help,” Avallone said, noting the group will be identified as a “Triple Crown” sponsor, and will be featured on a special banner attached to the new backstop.

Mary Anne Franco, signature community building chair, said the project came along at just the right time for Kiwanis.

“Our mission is to help children,” she said. “Kiwanis is all about children, so to have this opportunity to renovate the fields for Wilton Little League is the right thing at the right time.”

The signature project began last year under past president Greg Chann, she said, with Kiwanis’s first initiative a digital signage project at the Wilton Library.

“We want to support projects that may not be able to be supported any other way,” she said.

Kiwanis President Den Taylor said the link between Kiwanis and this particular field are significant for a couple of reasons.

“We actually bought the land that had been a pickle farm that we turned over to the Y back in the early to mid-50s,” he said. “(Bill) Terry, apparently, was very, very big both in Kiwanis and of course the little league.”

Terry, who died in July 1998, had a local reputation as the face of the town’s little league. The field was renamed for him the following year.

“He was so well-known for being involved in the little league that Kiwanis actually capitalized on that in publicizing our citrus sales,” Taylor noted, referencing a 1995 ad that ran in the Bulletin, which noted “Kiwanian Bill Terry” as “Mr. Baseball of Wilton,” beginning his volunteer work with Wilton Little League in 1954 and continuing for 40 years.

“He was an affable, friendly guy,” said Ray Moskow of Wilton, a volunteer umpire with the league who previously served as president of both the YMCA and Wilton Kiwanis. “He recruited me to be an umpire for him in the little league.” Moskow said that Terry would have laughed to have heard the field would be named for him after he died.

“He’d be honored,” Moskow continued. “He’d say, ‘I love the sport of baseball. I love little league,’ and to see it flourish and grow, I think he’d be quite happy about it and he’d applaud.”