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Batter Up! Revitalization Breathes New Life Into Vail Field

Jun 13, 2023 12:46PM ● By Pamela Brown Photography By Herb Swanson

Liam Crowl practices hitting off the tee at Vail Field.

Kevin Costner may have transformed a cornfield into a baseball field, but Patrick Crowl and John Malcolm, both coaches for Woodstock’s Cal Ripken baseball program, saw their own field of dreams in the rundown Vail Field, knowing they could help make it a scenic hub of activity. “It was in such shambles for a town like Woodstock, one of the prettiest little villages in the country. Baseball was limping along, and we decided to do something about it,” says Patrick. “We’re two dads interested in improving the facilities and the youth baseball program and making the community field look nice and keep it going for kids and adults.”

Creating a Better Baseball Experience

Volunteers help construct the dugout. From left to right: John Malcolm, Mike Perkins, Matt Velky, Patrick Crowl, Lukas Coogan, and Brian Moe.


In 2022, Patrick and John founded Woodstock Area Youth Baseball and Sports (WAYBS), a nonprofit whose mission is to teach, mentor, and provide facilities for amateur youth baseball in the greater Woodstock area. Partnering with the Woodstock Recreation Center, WAYBS provides events for Cal Ripken baseball and Babe Ruth programming and tournament play. The organization spearheaded the rehabilitation of Vail Field. “Both our kids are into baseball, and we personally love baseball,” says John. “Once we started playing a bit more competitive baseball we’d go around to other towns and saw their nicer facilities. We thought, if we could build a great facility, hopefully that can spark more interest in baseball and give the kids a better playing experience and make it more exciting and fun for everyone in Woodstock,” says John.

Facility improvements were funded from various sources. Patrick notes, “The funding mechanisms established last year were one-third from the EDC, one-third from the Rec Center, and one-third from the community. In late spring of 2021, the basketball courts and tennis courts were renovated, funded by taxpayer dollars.”

It Takes a Village

Patrick continues, “What’s been really cool is that the Vermont Lake Monsters baseball team has stepped up to become a real community partner in the baseball field.” The Lake Monsters are a competitive summer collegiate baseball team out of Burlington and play at Centennial Field.
So far, the field was refurbished with a new laser-graded infield; new landscaping, fencing, and backstop areas; concrete dugouts; a portable mound; and a redesigned walking/bike path. The Lake Monsters also donated two sets of bleachers.

Lukas Coogan, John Malcolm, and Mike Perkins determine the height and slope of dugout roof.

John notes, “It’s taken a village with local businesses contributing in-kind or at a discounted rate. It’s been miraculous. For example, Ken Vikse, owner of KMI Concrete, donated the concrete work; Dick Schulz, owner of Schulz Excavation, provided the excavation work at a discount; Jeff Sailer, owner of Sailer Construction, excavated the newly designed walking path, which was rerouted to allow for construction of the dugouts; and Chippers provided tree work and limbing back trees from the area. This year, our fundraising continues for a concession stand, a storage shed, and other baseball-related equipment.”

According to Joel Carey, assistant director of the Woodstock Recreation Center, Patrick and John were the catalysts for the renovation. “It takes people who are committed and have the time and passion for it. Both of them have kids going through our program and have been at the field at its worst time, and their kids will be involved in it for years to come so they have a vested interest in it,” says Joel.

The field is garnering tremendous interest. “It’s absolutely amazing. It’s going to be an amazing baseball field when they’re done. People who don’t even live in town come here. On any given day, there’s 100 to 200 people who walk through Vail,” says Joel. “Our goal is to have multiple teams and organizations using the field. This is going to be one of the better fields in a 30-mile radius. A lot of effort and a lot of time from these two individuals has gone into making it this nice and they wanted to keep to the standard of Woodstock that fit the aesthetics of the entire town.”

Continuing a Legacy

Vail Field traces its history to the 1900s when it was the home to the Woodstock Invincibles, a semiprofessional integrated baseball team led by Eugene Taylor, an African-American manager. “Baseball used to be a big deal here. It must have been pretty amazing to see this facility with its enormous grandstand,” says Patrick. John was excited to learn about the field in its heyday. “It’s a neat story. Our longtime vision is to highlight that story and carry on the legacy,” says John. Going forward, they intend to commemorate the Invincibles with a plaque and a garden.

The town’s middle school baseball program and games will be moving back to Vail Field along with Woodstock Recreation Center’s summer Babe Ruth baseball. “This whole effort for a better baseball field trickles down to a better baseball program. I couldn’t do it without all the parents showing up and volunteering. There’s an infusion of energy that comes along with this—the practices and the coaching have improved, and the kids are more energetic,” says Patrick. In 2024, WAYBS is planning a throwback exhibition summer game between the Lake Monsters and another opponent with the Lake Monsters wearing commemorative Woodstock Invincibles uniforms.  Both Patrick and John are humbled by the support they’ve received. “This is my community. I want people to use Vail Field and be proud of it,” says Patrick. “It will be fun to see this place on a Saturday morning in the summertime—a baseball practice going, older folks playing pickleball, young kids playing basketball. It’s vibrant. Vail Field is a green space, a big playground for all ages to come here and hang out, and that’s what we’re trying to preserve,” he says. John is equally excited. “We’ve had a lot of support from the town, the Rec Center, the donors, parents, and even folks who live nearby. It’s incredible to see where it was to where it is now. It’s great to finally see the finish line.” For more information, visit

Woodstock Area Youth Baseball and Sports (WAYBS)

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