GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) — The weeds are back. So is the poison ivy, encroaching on what was once the outfield. A “no trespassing” sign demarcates the pitcher’s mound.

A vacant town-owned lot on Riverside Lane that was once an oasis for neighborhood kids to play Wiffle ball is devoid of life this summer.

For the first time since their controversial eviction from the property last July, a group of teens visited the lot together the other day to see what had become of their beloved field.

“It’s not a real reunion unless the police come,” said Vincent Provenzano, 17, a member of the Greenwich High School graduating class who helped build the field.

A year has passed since Provenzano and his friends commandeered the half-acre lot worth $1.25 million, clearing its thicket for a miniature version of Boston’s Fenway Park, complete with outfield fences, bleachers and a backstop.

Bowing to complaints from neighbors about noise and security, the town evicted the teens from the lot and sent workers with the protection of a police escort to demolish the field a few weeks a later, including the 12-foot-high replica of Fenway’s Green Monster wall.

“I have a piece of the Green Monster in my car,” said Brett Atkinson, 17, who is going into his senior year at GHS.

The town took a public relations hit during the controversy, which received national and international media attention, with reporters from The New York Times, “CBS Evening News,” and Fox News Channel descending on the residential neighborhood.

“Build a Wiffle Ball Field and Lawyers Will Come,” read a front-page headline in The New York Times’ July 10 edition, a twist on the famous line from the movie “Field of Dreams.”

Acknowledging in a recent interview that the controversy was one of the bigger issues he had to wrestle with before the current economic recession, First Selectman Peter Tesei said the media coverage of the situation was slanted.

“The media didn’t necessarily focus on the facts of the situation, just the emotion of it,” Tesei said. “The national media never views Greenwich objectively. You’re in many ways starting out behind the eight ball because they have this preconceived notion of what Greenwich is.”

Town officials cited liability concerns, the negative precedent of allowing squatters to use public land and potential damage to neighboring private properties in their decision to shut down the field.

Set aside as a buffer area for storm water to drain, the lot has an exposed drain pipe that officials had said could result in injury of one of the teens. The drainage grate has since been replaced.

Despite efforts to relocate them last summer to the International School at Dundee and create a townwide Wiffle ball tournament at the Greenwich Polo Club, the teens said they can’t help but be jaded by what went down at the field.

“Without the field, it’s like where (are) we going to play?” said Jeff Currivan, 17, a member of the GHS graduating class.

A cul-de-sac on Susan Lane, which intersects Riverside Lane across from the entrance to the former field, is hosting games, but it just isn’t the same.

“Whenever we hit a pop fly, it hits the wires,” Justin Currytto, 18, a fellow GHS grad, said, pointing the utility lines above the quiet street.

The teens said they are still quite bitter at the neighbors who complained to the town, including Thomas Gallagher, who lives at 100 Riverside Lane and was one of the more vocal opponents of the field.

“What he did, we would never forgive him,” Currytto said.

The situation has created a headache for Gallagher in his own right, from passing cars honking their horns in support of the teens to the discovery that his picket fence, mail box and driveway were encroaching on the town lot. Gallagher has since moved the fence and his mailbox.

Scott Atkinson, 14, a ninth-grader at GHS, said the media attention during the controversy had its pros and cons.

“It was fun, but when you think about it, it was a pain in the (butt),” Atkinson said.

More than the interviews, sound bites and face time, the teens said they miss their field.

“It was fun while it lasted,” Currytto said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.