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Worcester to celebrate five-plus decades of dedication to area athletes by renaming field for Rousseau

WORCESTER ― About two hours before St. Paul ace Bella Mara throws her first pitch, Bob Rousseau and his crew get to work on the Vernon Hill Park softball field, mowing, weeding, watering, dragging, raking, chalking lines and setting up bases.

After polishing the Knights’ home diamond to perfection, Rousseau takes his customary seat just to the side of home plate, not far from the St. Paul bench, watches the game intently, then prepares for the field’s postgame maintenance.

“He puts so much time and effort into that field,” St. Paul athletics director Jim Manzello said. “It’s meticulous.”

The soon-to-be 71-year-old Rousseau, a lifelong Vernon Hill resident, began volunteering for the neighborhood’s Lou Gehrig Little League as a scorekeeper when he was 13. He umpired in the league, coached baseball, coached his daughters, Sheri and Kerin, in softball, was president and treasurer of the Gehrig baseball and softball leagues, and, in recent years, he devotedly took over the upkeep of the softball field, which is also home to Gehrig Senior League and District 4 Senior League, and has hosted the Senior League Softball East Regionals.

Rousseau’s name became synonymous with the field, which is regarded as one of the best in the area.

“When we started doing the regional,” Rousseau said, “(past chair of the City of Worcester Parks and Recreation Commission) Meg Mulhern started calling it ‘Bob Rousseau Field.’ That caught on for the regional. It was kind of a joke thing.”

But it really wasn’t.

Last October, Rousseau’s daughter, Sheri Dumas, proposed to the Parks and Recreation Commission naming the field in her father’s honor, and on Sunday, before St. Paul’s Ninth Annual Autism Awareness game against Nashoba Regional at 6:30 p.m., Bob Rousseau Field will be dedicated.

“It’s crazy,” Rousseau said. “This is just beyond what I could ever think.”

Rousseau’s five-plus decades of dedication to Little League also included serving as assistant District 4 administrator under Paul Tivnan, Doug Hannam and Linda McGill.

In 2014, Rousseau received the Assistant District Administrator Commendation Award at the 26th Little League International Congress in Minneapolis.

When the Vernon Hill Park softball field was rebuilt about 12 years ago, Rousseau, who was a longtime custodian at WPI, offered to take care of it.

“I said to Linda McGill, ‘If you get me the right equipment, I can keep it up and it can be the best in the city,’ ” Rousseau said, “and she got the equipment, so I had to make my words work.”

St. Mary’s played its final seasons of softball at Vernon Hill Park and, in 2018, Holy Name moved there from the Coburn Ave. field. It has been St. Paul’s home since Holy Name and St. Peter-Marian merged in 2020.

“They’re special,” Rousseau said. “Fantastic people.”

St. Paul’s annual Autism Awareness Game, which benefits Crossroads Continuum in Marlborough, is one of Rousseau’s favorite events.

“That’s why we’re doing the field naming on that night,” St. Paul coach Aimee Lee said. “Bob is part of our family. He treats the girls with so much respect. He is always trying to make the field better for us and every softball player in Worcester. He wants their experience to always be great. The kids love him.”

Lee’s dad played for Rousseau in Gehrig Little League.

The St. Paul wind turbine is visible from the Vernon Hill Park softball field, so it’s almost an extension of the school’s property.

“Heaven” is how Manzello described St. Paul’s partnership with the city and with Rousseau.

“Without a doubt,” Manzello said, “if there is anyone I’ve come across in my 35 years as an AD that deserves a field named after him it’s Bob.”

Rousseau, who works closely with John Grant of the Worcester Department of Public Works & Parks, will have a great and appreciative audience there for Sunday’s ceremony, including his family, former players, city officials and a team from Maryland that played in a regional at Vernon Hill and loved the field.

“It’s too much,” Rousseau said humbly. “It’s awesome. They put a lot of work into this. John Grant put a lot of work into this, helping to make sure the field is going to be beautiful for that day.”

Grant’s daughter, Ava, is having a fine freshman season for the Knights.

Rousseau’s granddaughter, Madysen Smith, is a seventh grader on the St. Paul JV team.

“That means I have to stick around at least until she graduates,” Rousseau said.

“I love doing it,” he said. “We keep the field nice, and I always said I do it because the girls deserve what the boys get.”


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