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Pat Bigold

The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, August 1, 2000

Perio loves new
park, misses home

IT was an overcast Sunday evening a little more than three weeks ago when I drove two miles to a game played by a Single-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.

The Lowell (Mass.) Spinners -- quaintly named for the textile heritage of my old hometown --play at Edward LeLacheur Park, just across the Merrimack River from where my wife and I were staying with my mother.

The reason why I was taking in my first Single-A game was former Castle High School left-handed pitcher Ian Perio.

The 6-foot, 190-pounder had been drafted by the Boston Red Sox only a few weeks earlier out of the University of San Francisco. I figured he'd still be feeling disoriented in the antiquated mill city, about 5,000 miles from the nearest crack seed store.

Maybe seeing the face of a reporter from home would be good for him.

One of four players with Hawaii ties in the NY-Penn League, Perio already had a 2-1 record in relief (nine strikeouts in 11 innings) since arriving in Lowell, a half hour's drive north of Boston.

I didn't know he had recently aggravated a shoulder injury. He didn't pitch against the Hudson Valley (N.Y.) team that lost a rain-shortened contest.

But I saw why Perio, homesick as indeed he was, told me he loves playing in LeLacheur Park, and I regretted that it hadn't been built while I was growing up there.

The facility, which has sold out 47-of-48 games this season, only holds 5,000, but conveys the charm of a baseball era my grandfather knew. I didn't know a park so small could make you feel so good.

It was designed by HOK Sports Facilities Group, a firm that also created Camden Yards and Coors Field.

The exterior is brick, lined with flower beds.

Inside, the power alleys are 365 feet and the outfield wall is 12-feet high.

The smell of the park, the bustle of Fenway-style vendors and the unfailingly creative sounds emanating from the park P.A. system (the recorded "waaaaaaa" of a baby when the visiting manager argues a call with the home plate ump) make it an entertainment experience we should have here.

Lowell is known as "the Venice of America" for its system of locks and canals. When two alligator mascots hopped off the dugouts, I asked the writer next to me in the press box what alligators had to do with Lowell, and he responded, "They're canal-igators."

One canaligator regularly loses a race around the base paths with a randomly selected tyke who wins a prize.

I'm sorry I'll miss Peter Gammons look-alike night on Aug. 26.

"The fans are awesome," said Perio, looking out over the outfield to the red-painted Aiken Street Bridge.

But Lowell is not as exciting as Boston, and Perio is still homesick. It's 50 miles to the nearest unfamiliar ocean. He misses longboard surfing at Ala Moana and Rock Piles.

As a matter of fact, Perio has heard of a shop owned by a Kailua couple in the Massachusetts coast town of Rockport. The place is called the Hula Moon Café and Gift Shop, and it sells saimin, teri plates, shave ice and Hawaiian-style music.

But Perio may never get there because Single-A ballplayers don't have cars and Massachusetts doesn't have a convenient town-to-town bus system like Oahu.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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