Hopkins Academy athletic fields project on the horizon

  • Hopkins Academy eighth grade outfielder Isabelle Palmisano, left, and senior shortstop Olivia Brighenti, right, converge on center field to back up freshman Gabriella Dyjach as she pulls in a fly ball to end Smith Academy's side of the fifth inning in the Golden Hawks' 6-5 Bi-County West loss to the visiting Falcons in Hadley on Friday, May 24, 2019. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hopkins Academy sophomore third baseman Allison Markowski throws to first base but not in time to stop Smith Academy freshman Bailey McCoy from reaching in the sixth inning of the Golden Hawks' 6-5 Bi-County West loss to the visiting Falcons in Hadley on Friday, May 24, 2019. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Hopkins Academy junior Maeghan Quinlan makes contact in the fifth inning of the Golden Hawks' 6-5 Bi-County West loss to visiting Smith Academy in Hadley on Friday, May 24, 2019. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jack Feltovic, left, of Hopkins Academy, fields a throw to second as Colin Ferrara, of Smith Academy, begins a slide to steal the base, Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at Hopkins. Ferrara was safe. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Thea Hanscom, left, of Hopkins Academy, can't handle a throw to third, so Carter Woodward, of Smith Academy, steals the base, Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at Hopkins. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Andrew Ciaglo, of Hopkins Academy, throws to first on a hit by Nate Moynihan, of Smith Academy, Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at Hopkins. Moynihan was out. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The athletic fields at Hopkins Academy will hopefully be renovated this summer. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Tuesday, July 02, 2019

HADLEY — As the Hopkins Academy school year came to close, Jeffrey Mish was getting ready for dramatic changes to his field of work.

With the renovation project for new athletic fields hopefully starting this summer, Mish, who has been the facilities director for six years in Hadley, expects to be very busy come this time next year.

“With the large amount of land being put to use, the list of responsibilities will grow,” Mish said. “I can tell you one thing, we’re going to need another lawnmower.”

Mish is in charge of keeping the athletic fields healthy and suitable during the school year at Hopkins Academy, as well as other fields across Hadley. In addition to the title of facilities director, Mish is also a coach for the junior varsity baseball team at Hopkins.

“It almost makes my job of maintaining the fields more important being a coach as well,” Mish said. “It gives me added incentive to do a good job taking care of the diamond, the soccer fields, and so on.”

The project at the school includes adding a new softball diamond, a new baseball diamond and a multiuse field for soccer, field hockey and other sports. Additionally, a 2,120-foot long, 8-foot wide asphalt walkway would be built on the perimeter. The public will have access to the fields when they are not being used by the school.

The cost of the project is expected to be more than $700,000.

Residents voted at Town Meeting in early May to use an additional $185,000 from the Community Preservation Act account for renovating the playing fields. The project is also being supplemented with $100,000 from the trustees of Hopkins Academy, $40,000 from the PTO, including money from the Steve Lewis Subaru Share the Love fundraiser, and significant private donations.

Once details are finalized and a bid is secured, the new athletic facility could be completed by the end of the summer.

“It’s tremendous to be in our position right now receiving new fields,” Hopkins Academy athletic director Erik Sudnick said. “Our current fields are good but also dated, so the upcoming renovations will be a welcome sight and a great morale boost for our sports programs.”

Sudnick, a physical education teacher who just finished his seventh year as athletic director for Hopkins, has been pleased with the work Mish has done to maintain the current fields, and expects nothing different with the new facilities.

“Jeff has been top notch as our facilities director,” Sudnick said. “He’s out there each day taking care of the fields virtually all by himself and he knows the ins and outs of the property.”

Hopkins Academy baseball coach Dan Vreeland is appreciative of Mish’s dedication to the maintenance of his team’s baseball diamond.

“He’s truly the best there is,” Vreeland said. “Everything he does for this school and the sports teams is something people take for granted. While the kids are out here practicing and playing games, he goes the extra mile to make sure the grass is cut, and the fields are in perfect condition.”

Vreeland’s baseball team enters next season as the two-time Western Massachusetts Division 4 champion. With an additional baseball field for the junior varsity team on Hopkins’ campus, Vreeland feels that the shorter proximity to his “farm system” will be nothing but beneficial.

“Personally, I think this is the most exciting aspect of the new fields,” Vreeland said. “Injuries can happen anytime in a game and when guys get banged up, we can just walk on over to the JV field and grab a guy for our game. It will be super convenient and will also create a competitive atmosphere for our players.”

The town acquired 8 acres of farm land in the fall of 2011 that was intended for future expansion of the athletic fields. After a few years of little progress, the school committee agreed in 2016 to complete the project in three phases. Three years later, the school is on the brink of completing its first phase of getting its new fields, and Mish will be the one responsible for keeping them in pristine condition.

“I’m very excited to see what the playing surfaces will look like in a few years once the renovations are fully completed,” Mish said.