By Amanda Burke
FITCHBURG -- Luis Alvardo surveyed the grounds at Crocker Field on Thursday.
The groundskeeper eyed the walkway that will greet spectators during the Red Raiders first home game in September, at the historic field that reached its centennial milestone this year.
Where once was poured concrete is now an expanse of commemorative bricks with Fitchburg High School’s Red Raider icon in the center.
“This is going to be a big change,” he said. “Everybody’s going to love coming in and seeing their names.”
Earlier that morning, before the sun came up, a team led by Fitchburg High School alumnus John Cordio laid bricks imprinted with the names of donors.
Donations will go towards the upgrades Crocker Field Restoration Committee wants to make, like purchasing new lights, and eventually, replacing the grass field with turf, said committee Vice President and Athletic Director Ray Cosenza.
“A lot of alumni have a real connection with Crocker Field, and this allows them to be a part of it, literally,” said Cosenza.
Graduates now living in states as far away as Hawaii have sent donations of $50 to $100 in exchange for red or granite brick, said Mike Pelland, FHS Class of ’73.
The bricks are engraved at Leominster Monument Company, he said.
In high school, Pelland played baseball at the field. Few people know that the hockey team once practiced in winters near the Broad Street Gate, he said.
And most recently, Pelland coached the FHS softball team that practiced at Crocker Field. His daughter walked the field in June, this time out of uniform, wearing a cap and gown during the 152nd commencement ceremony.
“I always refer to Crocker Field as the school district’s largest classroom,” he said.
On Thursday, the commemorative brick walkway appeared nearly finished. But looks can be deceiving.
Donors still have the opportunity to purchase a brick, said Cosenza. As more orders come in, the all-volunteer crew of landscapers will gradually swap out un-engraved bricks for engraved ones.
They’ll do so until Oct. 15, he said, weather permitting. Those who order a brick after throughout the fall and winter will see their stone laid come spring.
So far, 191 of the about 1,000-brick design have been purchased, by former students, current students, and in honor of entire teams that once played at Crocker Field.
“This is an opportunity to support the restoration of Crocker Field,” said Cosenza. “We’ve accomplished a lot, but there’s still a lot left to do.”
To find an order form for a commemorative brick, visit www.fitchburgathletics.com .