Longtime youth baseball leaders honored with field dedications

Jul 20, 2022

Two of the baseball diamonds at Crapo Field now bear the names of two men with more than 90 combined years of dedication to the game.

On Tuesday, July 19, the Dartmouth Youth Activities Association kicked off its 2022 postseason with a dedication of fields 1 and 4 to longtime members Jim Vieria and Fred Frates.

“You’ve got to love these two fellas for what they’ve done,” Select Board Chair David Tatelbaum said at the ceremony. “There are a lot of places I call hallowed ground, and this is one of them.”

Vieira and Frates said they were humbled by the honor.

“I’m just as surprised as anyone,” Frates said. “I’m 82 years old and never figured anything like this would happen. Just thought if this did happen, it would be after I’m gone.”

Frates, who still volunteers at the concession stand, got involved with coaching around 42 years ago when the oldest of his three sons, Michael (who is currently the head coach of the Dartmouth High baseball team), joined the junior league.

His two other sons, Steve and Chris, also played, but they were three years apart.

“When one was leaving, the other one would come up,” he said.

After Chris aged out, Frates said he figured he would continue to stick around to continue teaching future generations of baseball players.

“I’ve been here that long, so why not stay?” he said. 

Vieira, who is currently the DYAA’s treasurer, first joined the association 50 years ago at the age of 18 to become a coach for one of the Junior League teams but was told he was too young.

“You had to be at least 21,” he said, adding that after meeting with officials, they made an exception to allow a teen coach.

After that, Vieira coached the Junior League Twins for 30 years before taking on more administrative roles, typically as president or vice president.

“Usually, I’d swap titles with Freddie [Frates],” he noted.

The collaboration between the two didn’t start so smoothly. Vieira recalled their less than ideal first meeting when Vieira was officiating a youth basketball game. 

According to Vieira, Frates was not a fan of the calls he made, noting that he was constantly humming throughout the game.

“Finally, I walked over and said, ‘if you don’t like the calls, then why don’t you get involved?” Vieria said. “He did, and we became close friends. We’d do anything for each other”

Frates and Vieira noted that a lot has changed since they joined the DYAA all those decades ago.

Back in the 1970s, Vieira noted, Crapo Field consisted of just one diamond with no lights, dugouts, or concession stand.

“We used a cart back then,” he said

Now, the space contains seven diamonds, tee-ball fields, a proper concession stand, and a pavilion for families to enjoy snacks without dealing with the bright summer sun.

“I never thought it would look like this,” Vieira said. “This is definitely one of the finest complexes anywhere.”

Frates agreed.

“People don’t realize the money it takes to have something like this,” he said.

While there have been a lot of changes to the fields, the passion for baseball and helping kids grow their skills remains.

Vieira recalled a player who “lacked athleticism” and “never swung a bat all season,” only to surprise him during the championship game.

“I don’t know if he closed his eyes, but he swung the bat, and we watched the ball sail over the right field fence,” he said. “Grand slam home run.”

It’s those moments, he said, that keep him around even after five decades.

“I never thought I’d still be here after all this time, but I’ll stick around a little while longer,” he said with a smile.