GREENFIELD — Stanley Deuitch’s children always knew he was the type of man who saw potential in every project, but when the 85-year-old former Greenfield man died in early August, they learned just what an impact his work on a plot of land in Riley Park had on hundreds of local children.
Deuitch was the driving force behind the creation of the Greenfield Youth Baseball Association, which boasts upwards of 400 members, and the diamonds on which the group still plays. He coached on those same fields for years, earning the love and respect of players who considered him both mentor and friend.
When Deuitch died Aug. 7 after an extended illness, those who knew him say he left behind more than a grieving family of four children, six grandchildren, six step-children and eight step-grandchildren — he left behind a legacy of youth baseball in the Greenfield area.
Deuitch wasn’t just the idea man behind the formation of the association in the early 1970s; he also helped build –- many times with his own hands –- the complex in Riley Park that currently houses five diamonds. Those diamonds have since hosted generations of youth baseball games, a summer staple in the city’s most popular park.
Deuitch’s son, Eric Deuitch of Florida, said his father, who spent 45 years as an insurance and investment broker, always wanted to help create something with whatever he saw in front of him.
“If my dad saw an empty canvas, he learned to paint. If he saw a piano, he taught himself to play,” he said. “When he saw those empty fields, he saw baseball diamonds. He was Mr. Baseball. Always.”
After his father’s death, Eric Deuitch went through his desk and uncovered document after document highlighting his father’s efforts to start the baseball association and build two little league diamonds out of then-undeveloped fields in Riley Park.
In one letter, which Eric Deuitch said would have been from the early ’70s, his father wrote about the importance of forming a youth organization that would give the community members a place to spend their time. The letter was part of his efforts to fundraise and garner support for not only the creation of the baseball association but for building new facilities.
“He was the driving force behind making Greenfield a baseball town,” Eric Deuitch said. “He was deeply committed to growing sports and improving the area through direct community involvement. He wanted Greenfield to be a place where baseball players came from.”
So Stanley Deuitch got to work. He started writing letters to community members asking for suggestions and offered thoughts on how a new baseball organization could be formed. He went around to area businesses and asked for donations. When a plan started to come together, he even supplied elbow grease to get the fields up and running.
Eric Deuitch said his father was always quick to point out how many others helped.
“He was humble, always,” Eric Deuitch said. “But he was out there until the bitter end, until the last post was driven.”
Brothers Matthew and Bryan Deuitch remember helping their father work at the diamonds; they even helped dig fence posts.
“And it meant a lot to play on those fields once they were finished,” Bryan Deuitch said.
Bryan Deuitch of New Jersey returned to Greenfield for his father’s funeral and said he was pleased to see the fields had been maintained over the past 50 years.
“I was afraid they would fall into misuse,” Bryan Deuitch said. “But I’m very happy that what he did had such a long-lasting effect on children in the area. I really feel like what he did helped so many people.”
Stanley Deuitch’s sons think the idea for the fields stemmed from a childhood illness their father suffered around the age of 13, when he was diagnosed with epiphysitis, a spinal deformity that required him to spend almost a year in a torso cast.
When other little boys were playing baseball, Deuitch was stuck inside in bed.
“He wasn’t able to do what I was able to do, and I think part of the reason he did this was make up for that,” Bryan Deuitch said. “He was trying to give his sons something he never had, something he was never able to do.”
While doctors worked to straighten his spine, Stanley Deuitch also had to have surgery on his knee.
But Stanley Deuitch’s struggle — if that was in fact what inspired his vision — resulted in something that brought together a community, and for that, those who enjoy the fields today are grateful.
Today, about 450 children participate in games each year. Association president Mike Hubert said the group is still using the diamonds Stanley helped build and hopes to do something to commemorate his efforts in the near future.
“I think the work Stanley did is worth recognition,” Hubert said. “There are five diamonds, and Stanley had his hand in at least three.”
The organization would most likely not exist without the persistence of Stanley Deuitch — the association’s first president, he said.
Hubert said he wishes he could have met the man who made it all possible.
“I think that it would have been nice to shake his hand and thank him for his efforts,” Hubert said. “It’s always nice to have a person around that could always see the big picture, the long-term effects of change and give us insight.”
Stanley Deuitch also helped build two structures on the site; Eric Deuitch recently stumbled upon his father’s hand sketches of the concession stand in his father’s office. That stand is now used for storage.
Stanley Deuitch also helped build the announcer’s building near the Babe Ruth diamond.
Herman Graddy, a friend of Stanley Deuitch, worked along Stanley Deuitch during the project. He said the idea came from his friend, who helped rally residents around the concept of a community-wide baseball organization.
“We became close friends because of those diamonds,” Graddy said. “Everyone was proud of the diamonds after they were finished.”
Eric Deuitch said that his father remained involved with the GYBA for as long as his health allowed, and recent health issues — which included a heart attack, kidney issues and two strokes — were the only things that forced him to step away.
After the funeral, several members of the family drove to the diamonds to give one last look to the fruits of their father’s labor, adding it was the perfect finish to the difficult day.
“As I looked around, all I could think is that if Dad hadn’t have lived, this wouldn’t have come to pass,” Eric Deuitch said. “Those diamonds wouldn’t be there. It would be nothing but fields. I see that place as a legacy of my father, and that means the world to me.”
“I see that place as a legacy of my father, and that means the world to me,”
Bryan Deuitch, on his father’s efforts to develop baseball fields in Riley Park.