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Greenwich Dreams of Naming Field for Coach

GREENWICH, Conn. – Greenwich residents are hoping to honor Sal Strazza, a baseball coach who died last year, by asking the town to rename the Byram School Baseball Field after him.

For 30 years, Strazza worked to build and maintain the town’s youth baseball program. He died at the age of 60 on April 1 after a long battle with cancer at his home in Holly Springs, N.C.

Clay Miles, one of the many kids Strazza coached, wrote to Strazza before he died. Miles told Strazza that he went to college, became a U.S. Marine for nine years, works as a civilian in the intelligence field in Afghanistan, is married with four kids and is a professional stand-up comedian on the side. “Why should he know all this? Well, he needs to know I could have been half the person I am today without his guidance when I was young,” wrote Miles.

More than 700 residents and former players living all over the country signed a petition to rename the field. The measure goes before the Board of Selectmen on Thursday.

“His selfless enthusiastic, caring and energetic demeanor created a positive environment for players and parents alike,” Rob Spaeth, president of the George M. Weiss Sr. Babe Ruth League, said in a Sept. 9 letter to the town.

If approved by the Board of Selectmen at its March 15 meeting, the proposal would go to the Representative Town Meeting's agenda for April.

Mike Bocchino, chairman of the Byram Neighborhood Association , said the idea was planted at Strazza’s funeral, as he and other residents and former baseball players were reminiscing. Bocchino brought it forward to the association to rename Byram School Baseball Field after Strazza.

During the mid 1970s, Greenwich had no organized baseball leagues during the spring and summer. Strazza and George Zacanini found funding to create a league through the National Babe Ruth Organization. In 1978, Strazza put up his own money and found sponsorship from local businesses so all kids could play without any financial burden.

When he petitioned the town for a fall baseball league and lost, Strazza transported kids to Eastchester, N.Y., to have a chance to play.

He provided housing in his own home for visiting teams during state-sanctioned baseball tournaments hosted by the town. He began running Jimmy Fund charity tournaments in Greenwich in the late 1980s and continued for 10 years, raising money for children with cancer.

Strazza was also responsible for improvements such as fencing, dugouts, a sprinkler system and a new electronic scoreboard at the field. He also cut the grass on the Byram School field during baseball season.

State Rep. Fred Camillo, a Republican, coached teams that played against Strazza’s squads and umpired games in which he was involved. “He was a character of the game, and the town, in the very best sense,” Camillo wrote in a September letter to the town. “I often marveled at the time he spent on ballfields, time that he could have reserved for himself. To Sal, it was no big deal because that was really where he wanted to be, anyway, even despite his love for golf.”

For 30 years, Strazza also served the community as a local mechanic and became custodian of the New Lebanon School in Byram.

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