Residents ask for ‘Tony Porath Field’
By Scott Bellile
The New London Parks and Recreation Committee declined to name a ball diamond after a long-time New London High School softball coach.
Melinda Hull, assistant coach for the New London High School varsity softball team and president of New London Girls Youth Softball Association, asked the city to name Memorial Park’s north ball diamond “Tony Porath Field.”
The diamond is where the varsity softball team plays all its home games and where NLGYSA plays home tournaments.
The parks and recreation committee decided at its May 2 meeting naming the field after Porath could set a precedent that could be a challenge to deal with moving forward.
Hull wrote in an April 28 letter to the committee that naming the field after Porath, a 26-year veteran with the Bulldogs, “would highlight the impact that Tony Porath has had on community members, High School, and Youth Softball players through his dedicated work with the New London Softball Program.”
Hull backed her statement with Porath’s career stats, which include five state appearances, seven regional championships and five conference championships.
Hull included a photograph of a “Tony Porath Field” sign that she already had produced prior to the committee’s discussion.
Katie Bellile attended the May 2 meeting on behalf of Hull because there was a softball game that night. Bellile said they originally wanted to surprise Porath with the gesture at a ceremony later in the season, so he was unaware of the idea. When they learned the city has a procedure for naming public facilities and they needed to go before the parks committee, they then told Porath since the idea was becoming public knowledge.
According to the City of New London Park and Recreational Facility Naming Policy, any proposed naming of a public facility must go through the parks committee and then receive approval by the city council.
Qualifying criteria for facilities named after individuals may include those who contribute to the acquisition or development of the facility, who achieve outstanding accomplishments for the good of the community, or who provide an exceptional service in the interest of the park system.
The parks director must also approve any signage, plaques or markers.
During a discussion May 2, parks committee members Robert Besaw and Lori Dean said they were not in favor of the naming because if residents get inspired, the parks department could become flooded with naming requests.
New London Mayor Gary Henke said many individuals have contributed toward youth athletics over the years.
“If we start listing all the people, we don’t have enough fields in town to name them, to, you know, honor everybody,” Henke said. “[But] I think, yeah, Tony’s done a heck of a lot, you know, for girls youth softball. It’s been great.”
The whole committee appeared to agree that Porath deserves recognition.
“I fall into the same category as everybody else here,” committee member Rob Way said. “It’s a struggle. Tony’s got a heck of a stamp on the city for what he’s done for softball.”
Committee member John Faucher suggested, “Maybe we need a softball hall of fame somewhere. We have other ways we can recognize people.”
Way agreed with Faucher. He said there could be a nomination process to get the community involved. Plaques could be displayed somewhere to chronicle the histories of key individuals.
“I think we should explore ways that we can honor Tony’s accomplishments in a way that’s not going to put us in a position to open up a can of worms,” Faucher said.
The committee unanimously denied the application.
Porath told the Press Star that he is fine with the parks committee denying the name because he does not want the field named after him.
He said he appreciates the gesture, but there are plenty of other individuals who have contributed to the softball program who also deserve recognition.