GREENWICH, Conn. A community baseball field in Byram is one step closer to being named for former coach Sal Strazza after receiving approval from the Greenwich Board of Selectmen on Thursday morning.
For 30 years, Strazza built and maintained the towns youth baseball program. He died at the age of 60 last April 1 after a long battle with cancer at his home in Holly Springs, N.C. More than 700 Greenwich residents and former Little League players from around the country signed a petition seeking to rename the Byram field in his honor.
At the Thursday meeting, First Selectman Peter Tesei said he enthusiastically supported the renaming, especially after receiving many letters from residents and former players describing Strazzas contributions to the town. Selectman David Theis said although he did not know Strazza, he was also impressed by the number of unsolicited comments received.
As I said before, this is a no-brainer, Selectman Drew Marzullo said before the board gave its unanimous approval. The proposal now goes to the Representative Town Meeting for consideration at its April meeting.
Previously, the board had seen a letter Clay Miles, who had played in the youth baseball program, 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.
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.
Mike Bocchino, chairman of the Byram Neighborhood Association , said the idea was planted at Strazzas funeral, as he reminisced with other residents and former baseball players. Bocchino brought the idea to rename Byram School Baseball Field after Strazza to the association.
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 ten 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 even cut the grass on the Byram School field during baseball season.
State Rep. Fred Camillo, a Republican, coached teams that played against Strazzas 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 ball fields, 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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