Bowman Field Commission: ‘This past year was special’

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Members of the Bowman Field Commission include, from front left, Frank Lupacchino, and Wayne Fausnaught. In back from left are Bonnie Katz, Lou Hunsinger, Jr., and Matt Hutchinson. They stand in the home team dugout at Bowman Field.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Today the Sun-Gazette continues its seventh annual Person of the Year series. Each day will shine a spotlight on each of the finalists. On Saturday, the Sun-Gazette will name its 2017 Person of the Year.)

Stewards of the city’s minor league ballpark, the Bowman Field Commission this year ushered along major renovation needed for the city to host a Major League baseball game during the Little League World Series in August.

Comprised of Lou Hunsinger Jr., Wayne Fausnaught, Frank Lupacchio, Matthew Hutchinson and Bonnie Katz, the commission is a critical component to the park’s preservation.

“The commission certainly is an important steward of this incredibly historic ballpark,” said Gabe Sinicropi, director of marketing with the Williamsport Crosscutters, an affiliate of the Phillies that plays here from June through late summer.

“It’s an important service to the city and to the legacy of this great stadium,” Sinicropi said of the volunteer commission, which was established in 1957.

At that time, the condition of the ballpark built in 1925 had deteriorated badly due to a lack of investment to make repairs. Considered an albatross at the time, the city established the commission to coordinate Bowman Field’s maintenance with the city, regulate its use and administer the field, according to a section on the facility’s history on the Crosscutters’ website.

“When baseball returned in 1958, Bowman Field was put back into proper shape,” the website says.

Fast forward to 2017, when the stadium gained significantly more attention with the inaugural Major League Baseball Little League Classic on Aug. 20 between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.

The game was played mostly for the benefit of the young and talented participants in the Little League World Series and their families and telecast live on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.”

A second Little League Classic is scheduled for next year, featuring the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets.

Part of making the facility the best it could be and a strong advocate of what the commission has done is architect Anthony Visco.

“I’ve worked with the commission on and off for a quarter of a century,” Visco said. “I am excited for it, especially knowing its history dating back to the 1950s. Their organizational skills have kept the history of Bowman Field alive.”

What truly thrills Visco, from an architectural perspective, is the vast improvements made to the stadium over the years, especially those since the turn of the century that the commission has played a role in making happen.

It was an initial improvement of the stadium entrance, Visco said.

Prior to that design, the facility looked a bit tired and rundown, he said.

More recent improvements have helped to bring the city-owned facility up-to-date and created a modern facility that minor league baseball fans have come to expect, Visco said.

Transformed are the infield and outfield, the seating and viewing areas, and that has heightened the enjoyment for fans to the point that it almost feels like a Major League facility, Visco said.

“The commission not only cares about the history of the ballpark, but also its survivability for minor league baseball to be played there for generations to come,” he said.

“You can go back to people such as Bill Pickelner, who brought the team from Geneva, New York, which has been playing here all these years since,” Visco said.

William E. Nichols, city finance director, keeps a Phillies shirt draped over a chair in his City Hall office.

“I appreciate their thoughtfulness and understanding as the administration works with (the commission) to make (Bowman Field) the best facility possible for fans of the game,” Nichols said. “They are thoughtful in their financial considerations for improving a key resource that improves the quality of life in Williamsport and the region.”

“This is a town with a really interesting history and one tied to baseball,” said City Council President Jonathan Williamson.

“Bowman Field is very much symbolic of those pieces of who we are,” Williamson said.

Hunsinger said he and those on the commission are pleased to prepare the field for another year of baseball for college, high school, Crosscutters as well as another Major League game.

“We were as surprised and as pleased as anyone because we didn’t know it was going to happen until it was made public in the spring,” Hunsinger said of the first classic where wide-eyed Little Leaguers got to not only see but interact with professional players before the game.

“This past year was special, as I believe will be the upcoming one,” Hunsinger said.