The final out: Warwick Little League says goodbye to Wilbur Fields

By on November 8, 2017

Reese Gassert and Dalton Carpenter were at the Wilbur complex Sunday to say goodbye to their home field.

It was a bittersweet farewell to Wilbur Fields on Sunday, Nov. 5, when the Warwick Little League marked its last time at the facility.

Current Little League players, their coaches, past players and fans spent the afternoon reminiscing about the site that has accommodated local youth baseball for as long as most can remember.

“I played here when I was a kid,” said Larry Gassert, a member of the Little League board and a dad with sons who play Little League.

Rick Palmer, another board member, said that he too was feeling a bit sad to say goodbye to the fields that have been so familiar to so many in the Lititz area.

The sky was cloudy and there were a few sprinkles. The gray and dreary day seemed fitting for the occasion, which actually had been postponed after a rain-out on the original date of Oct. 29.

But there was still a celebratory air to the closing festivities, marked by a Custom Hot Whips car show for the grownups and a Fall Festival with games and bounce houses in the outfield for the children.

Warwick Little League players from the past and from the present stopped by take one last trip around the bases, sign a banner and receive a commemorative gift. Jadeen Kline hit an imaginary home run and crossed home plate for the last time. Then he was back at the bounce house to have fun with his buddies.

The very last games were played at Wilbur Fields Saturday evening.

Players, parents, and fans gathered for one last trip around the bases at the Wilbur baseball fields Sunday afternoon. Pictured at the plate are (younger kids, left to right) Ryan Carson, Jadeen Kline, Parker Gassert, Reese Gassert, Nicholas Carson, Joey Diffenderfer; (back row, l-r) Heather Kline, Tyson Kline, Larry Gassert, Rick Palmer, Brett Carson, and Josh Diffenderfer.

The fields are part of the 11-acre property currently under purchase agreement with Oak Tree Development. The fields are located to the rear of the former Wilbur Chocolate manufacturing plant. The entire property is slated to be developed as a hotel, apartments, dining and shops.

Portions of the Wilbur factory at 47 N. Broad St. are set to be demolished. Then the building will be renovated as upscale, loft-style apartments, a 70-room boutique hotel, a bistro and small retail shops. Preliminary plans for the remaining land show a promenade connection to Lititz Spring Park and two new buildings offering luxury garden apartments.

Those garden apartments are set to be constructed somewhere around first base and the outfield of Wilbur Fields. The two condominium-style structures are slated to offer 55-plus living with the ability to affiliate with continued care at Pleasant View Retirement Community in adjacent Penn Township.

When news that the fields would be lost circulated back in the spring, petitions were drawn up to try to save them. When that didn’t work, efforts got underway to find new fields for the 2018 season.

With 300-plus players on the diamond each year and more than 6,600 boys (many now grown up) competing in the Warwick Little League in its 22-year history, it was hard to say goodbye to the Wilbur complex.

“We’re working on next season and we’ll make sure our kids have a place to play next year,” assured Palmer.

After all, there’s no crying in baseball.

Laura Knowles is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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