Barcroft Park, scene of countless memories of my youth as an inconsistent athlete, is now the scene of the latest tentacle reaching from the ever-expanding George Washington University.
The Arlington County Board last month voted to ink a $20-year, $3 million deal to upgrade the big baseball field on the multi-sport facility on South Four Mile Run. GW gets improved space for its team-which has been using the field since 1992-and the Parks Department gets the improvements all paid for, a public-private partnership not inconsequential in today’s strapped public sector.
The exchange looks like a win-win (a concept I never experienced as a Little Leaguer). The county retains usage rights for 75 percent of the week, while the university gets to display the Colonials’ logo on an NCAA-level field hosting its home games.
By springtime, Diamond No. 6 is set to include the county’s first synthetic turf for baseball, new brick dugouts, a press box/ticket office/concession area, stadium seating, a bullpen (that’s serious stuff), a reconfigured parking lot alongside the field and a new entry plaza from a parking lot. There’s also visions of new restrooms, locker rooms and a 21st-century scoreboard.
GW coach Steve Mrowka told the “GW Hatchet” the new field will give his team added incentive for success. “A new facility will energize the entire program in a lot of areas,” he said. “We hope to see a much improved effort in our recruiting.”
All this courtesy of the sky-high-tuition-paying families of that fine institution at Foggy Bottom.
Such shiny new amenities are a far cry from the Barcroft of my youth. Back in the 1960s, it had rickety green wooden dugouts, chipped gray bleachers and chain-link fences that had to remain adjustable for the seasonal switch to football.
For North Arlington families, the twice-weekly drive to Barcroft required a cross-county trek the length of George Mason Drive. (Thanks Mom, Dad, and all those car-pool parents we mooched off of). Proudly bedecked in our uniforms, we would motor pass the storefronts of many of the (now-defunct) team sponsors– Arlington Trust Bank, Bob Peck Chevrolet and Tops Drive-Inn.
Tops was the original area franchisee for Kentucky Fried Chicken, which is how my stint as a 75-pound football player for Tops Cubs afforded me a glimpse of a global celebrity. Col. Harlan Sanders himself, white linen suit, cane and goatee in place, once ambled across the gridiron to cheer us on.
A good six years of my boyhood was spent as a citizen of that teeming village of Barcroft. There were always several baseball games in progress at a time, including girls’ “pigtail league” softball. I can still recall each unfolding moment of my but triumphant bunt single off the league’s fastest pitcher, as well as my role as goat in misjudging a flyball in the all-star game. Equally vivid are the post-game snowcones from the snack bar often manned by the father of a friend-the late Arlington super volunteer Joe Courtney.
But enough nostalgia. I welcome the modern Barcroft outfitted with soccer fields, tennis courts and an indoor gymnastics facility. Let’s embrace the way it has changed along with Arlington.
We now have GW players on our home turf who have a shot at moving directly to the majors. It’s another link to cosmopolitan downtown for our once- sleepier suburb.
Charlie Clark may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org