This was an old interview I did in 2011 for Wiffle Ball junkies . . .
- WJ • What prompted you to build a replica ball field in your front yard?
TH – I visited Petco Park and I got to see there field. When I left I had decided I was going to build a field. My first rendition was at my old house, we sculpted a field from a backyard and had allot of fun back there. However it does not compare to what we built here. In fact when I bought this house part of the process was having a yard big enough to build a field.
- Why replicate Little Ebbet’s? Did you have other parks in mind?
TH- I have always loved the Brooklyn dodgers team history. Being somewhat of a baseball historian the color line, losing famous World Series, the quirky park they were a clear choice. We thought about Fenway but my son said, everyone has a fenway Dad . . .that was what sealed the deal and that fact it is not a cookie cutter made it more interesting as well.
- How long did the construction process take from beginning to end?
TH- It took 6 months from start to finish. It was much harder a build than I had thought it would be. We broke ground March 28th in 2008 and I can recall standing at the edge of the hole looking down thinking it was really far down. Turns out the grade was 8 feet which was fairly deep hole. There was allot of thinking on the fly, as my plans were written on scarp pieces of paper. We played our first game August 15th that year and made the movie Yard Ball which was pretty exciting.
- Did you have any prior experience in construction?
TH – Yes, I was a carpenter in previous life. I have also built/remodeled a half dozen houses and have always been active with some type of building. This project challenged me. I had to do allot of research for building a retaining wall behind the outfield fences. The second area was the playing surface. Originally, I had hoped to do field turf so we could play all year. But the cost was a little out of control so I went with grass instead.
- What were your expectations going into this project? TH – To build a world class field and be finished in 6 – 8 weeks . . . . I did think more people would come but the results in many ways exceeded expectations. I have enjoyed my time playing with my kids, friends and relatives.
- Are you considering any future additions to the field? TH – We added dugouts, signs, and a handful of other small features the last two years. Including a sound system, manuel scoreboard, back stop, bat rack and boxed the right field mesh fence.
- How many people were involved with the building process; any outside help? TH – My neighbor dug the hole which was far more work and dirt than ever expected. Leveling the ground was a massive job. I also had a landscaper do the clay for baselines and help with irrigation. Everything else I did, I mixed 250 bags of concrete, installed over 60 sheets of plywood, built bleachers, the wall, by myself. It was a labor of love.
- What benefits have come from building this field? (Improvement in your game, camaraderie, celebrity status?) TH – I got to meet many people, play allot of wiffle ball, spend countless hours with my kids and recently had my grandson on the field. I have made a few new and good friends as well, that would not have been the case had we not built the field.
My personal Game is closer to the end than beginning, but I did manage to get a MVP in 2009, which was a league wide vote. It was so much fun to play that season, to play against all the 20 somethings and do well was beyond my personal expectations. In 2009, over 100 different people used the field, that in itself was a great joy.
- What events have been hosted on Little Ebbet’s Field? (Pick up games, team practice, competitive tournaments, or fundraisers?) TH – In 2008 we filmed Backyard wiffle Ball movie that was on NESN. It was really cool to see us on TV at Fenway Park during a rain delay. In 2009, we played over 200 games from April to September and over 100 people played on the field. It was really a blast. The last 2 years have not seem allot of action on the field by me but we have rented it out a dozen times. My son who is 17 will regularly have several friends over playing Wiffle Ball.
- What are the field dimensions and rules? TH – 87 LF, 98 LC, 101 RC, 75 RF with 13 foot high wall. Mound 45 feet. The rules determined by who plays. Mainly we want people to enjoy themselves. No arguing in general and when I play no fast pitching.
- What do your neighbor’s think? TH – My neighbor dug the hole . . . everyone else has played on field at least once. We have never made a spectacle of the field so there has never been a problem.
- Can anyone that’s interested visit or play on Little Ebbet’s Field?TH – Yes, we charge a nominal fee to use the field. You can have it for the day or an event. The yard also supports 2 tourney style fields as well. Recently a group used it for a Bach Party, Haverhill Little League has played here, so if you need a place for a event give us a call!
- Do you have any recommendations or resources for those looking to build their own backyard ballpark? TH – My book Backyard Ball goes into pretty good detail. I would strongly recommend talking to someone who has done it if you want to build something like this. It seems easy until you have 13 foot high walls that need to width stand New England weather.
Ten things I learned: By Tom Hannon.
I learned allot about drainage . . . my field is flat and the first time it rained before grass grew, I had a lake. The field now has a dozen drains and you can play on it 30 minutes after heavy rain.
Secondly, direction of sun, turns out fields should point North, who knew.
Third, buy lots of round up for base paths.
Fourth, build a back stop, it will save you hours in picking up balls.
Fifth, try to take allot of pictures and enjoy it.
Six, as much as we may think, it is not a business. It is just for fun.
Seventh, expect 15% overage on pretty much everything
Eight, your guy friends will consider you a “God Father” , their wives will think you are nuts. They will wonder what got into your wife for allowing you to do this.
Ninth, you may get unexpected text messages, anyone playing today? Can we use field? Up for a game? Your facebook wall may change as well, and trash talking may take over.
Tenth, you may end up with allot of wiffle ball equipment