MEMBERS of the Wakefield High Warrior Marching Band performed the National Anthem at the close of the dedication at Blatz Park, Meghan Burnett Field. (Courtesy Photo)

Named to honor both Burnett and Marty Blatz

WAKEFIELD — Earlier this year, in late April, the Town Council approved a request to rename the softball field at Wakefield Memorial High School to “Blatz Park, Meghan Burnett Field”.

W.Martin “Marty” Blatz was an active, well respected, well-loved member of the Wakefield Community. He owned and operated the filling station on the corner of Albion St. and Jordan Ave, was a charter member of the Wakefield Lions Club and under whose efforts Little League Baseball was first established in Wakefield. He could probably be considered the father of organized youth sports in Wakefield.

Unfortunately, he passed away before his time in the spring of 1957, so it was in appreciation of his commitment to local youth and his efforts establishing Little League in town that “Blatz Little League Field” was originally dedicated to him in August of that year. The field was located on Farm St. between the Jr High and the Woodville and for many years was one of the best Little League fields in town.

After a December 1971 fire destroyed the Atwell building at the former high school, work began immediately to expand the junior high building into a new high school. In the process, what many hadn’t noticed was that Blatz Field was removed and a parking lot had taken its place. Marty’s family noticed and what had been a source of pride for them had now become a source of disappointment.

A softball field appeared on the existing field down behind the Woodville school and years later, parents of kids who played softball found out that this was called “Blatz Field”. What had been a premier Little League baseball field had been removed and its name applied to an afterthought of a softball field.

Fast forward to 2018: Meghan Burnett graduated from WMHS in June and was on track to attend St. Michael’s College in the fall where she would major in education and be playing Div. 2 college softball for the Purple Knights. Unfortunately, less than two weeks after graduating, the healthy 18 year-old died from complications during surgery to correct Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS).

Meghan played softball growing up in Wakefield and always questioned why Blatz was ignored when it could be made into a “real field”. For years, it was a well-known rumor that the town would never spend any money on that field because they “needed the space to build a new high school”. When she died, several friends of the family stepped up and started the process of getting the field redesigned and re-built like Meghan had talked about and doing it ‘“for Meghan”. As they went, they started talking about naming the field for her too. That would make it the only women’s fast pitch softball field in the Middlesex League to be named for a woman (and a player).

While many liked the idea of naming the new field for her, The Meghan Burnett Foundation wanted to find out if there were any Blatz relatives in town that they could talk with. That’s what led them to Billy Teixeira, one of the grandsons of Marty Blatz. Fortunately, Teixeira liked the idea of sharing the name of the field and after some discussion they came up with “Blatz Park, Meghan Burnett Field”. That way, the field recognizes the memory of both a coach and a player. Billy’s brother Dave also agreed with the proposed name.

The Meghan Burnett Foundation will provide permanent memorial plaques for both Marty and Meghan, recognizing who they were and their contributions so they don’t just become obscure names from Wakefield’s past. Photographic proofs of the plaques were on display at the field.

Through their actions, they have proven to be cut from the same cloth, two of a kind from different generations; both of them seeing a larger picture than the rest of us and making the well-being of others a priority.

The 2021 Dedication

While the name was approved in April, the date of the dedication kept getting postponed due to rain until finally it was decided to incorporate it into the annual Meghan Burnett “Fly High” Softball

NORA HAGOPIAN, the recipient of the 2021 Fly High Scholarship Award, is pictured here with WMHS athletic director Brendan Kent. (Courtesy Photo)

Tournament. So, during the final day of the recent fast pitch tournament, time was taken before the 18U Championship game to dedicate Blatz Park/Meghan Burnett Field at WMHS. The area north of the Shaun F. Beasley Track and Field is now officially recognized as “Blatz Park” with the new softball field inside it named “Meghan Burnett Field”.

ELISABETH LABOY, left, the recipient of the 2021 Charlie Rollins Award, is pictured here with Charlie’s family Lynn and Jessie Rollins. (Courtesy Photo)

Athletic Director Brendan Kent welcomed the attendees, introducing who Meghan was for those who were there for the tournament. With the championship teams standing on the first and third baselines, Kent spoke of Meghan as a gifted athlete and musician while also being one of the kindest people he had ever known. He then proceeded with the presentation of the Fly High Tournament Scholarship to Nora Hagopian before looking to Lynn and Jess Rollins to present the first annual Charlie Rollins Award (Musician-Athlete) to Elisabeth Laboy. Charlie was a longtime softball coach and supporter in both youth sports and high school teams who always encouraged players to participate in music, as well as the other arts.

After the senior awards, Town Councilor Julie Smith-Galvin spoke of the transformation of the softball field from a patch of infield dirt to a premier softball field. She noted that as Martin Blatz had been and continues to be remembered as a pillar of the community and all that he did establishing Little League Baseball in Wakefield, so Meghan would now too be remembered. She spoke of Meghan’s qualities and how young softball players would know of her, thanks to the tireless efforts of those involved to make this field a reality and, in the end, that it has become the first Girls/Women’s softball field in the Middlesex League named for a woman.

The final speaker was Burnett’s longtime coach and friend, Tom Purcell. Tom took the time to paint a very clear picture of who Meghan was for those who hadn’t met her and an emotional reminder for those of us who did know her. He told of her many accomplishments and skills but stressed that it was her positivity, care for others and ability to inspire that really defined who she was. He finished by repeating the quote on the plaque that will be placed at the field: “‘There are some who bring a light so bright to the world that even after they are gone, the light remains.’ Meghan’s light will always burn bright with each of us, and she will always guide us toward the path of love.”

Following Mr. Purcell, the WMHS marching band under the direction of Tom Bankert, provided a stirring performance of the National Anthem to bring the dedication to a close and kick off the championship game that followed.

Billy Teixeira was on hand for the ceremony, after which he noted that it was great to see both Meghan and his grandfather so honored.

He noted that in recognition and forever remembrance may it be realized that all of this was made possible by the love, hard work and dedication to the children of Wakefield by one W.Martin Blatz.