FITCHBURG — Crocker Field, the scene of so many exciting and historic sporting events hosted by Fitchburg High School, will turn 100 years old next month.
And West Boylston artist Mark Waitkus wants to be part of the celebration — and more.
A gifted watercolor painter and in-house artist for the Boston Red Sox since 2002, Waitkus wants to use his talents to help raise money for the Crocker Field Restoration Committee in its quest to preserve and restore the historic venue.
“I’m a sports guy,” said the 60-year-old Waitkus, who also works on art projects with several U.S. colleges and universities. “It’s my passion, and I love Crocker Field. I pitched there when I was in high school, and my kids played football up there. It’s one of the oldest high school stadiums in the country, and when I learned they needed to raise some money, I wanted to help."
To that end, Waitkus decided to create four original paintings of Crocker Field, make prints and offer them for sale to the public.
The featured art work includes paintings of a Fitchburg High vs. Leominster High Thanksgiving Day game at Crocker, the outside of the historic clubhouse, the Circle Street gate entrance and the inside of the clubhouse room filled with Red Raiders memorabilia.
“We’re honored that Mr. Waitkus chose our school and our restoration committee to try to help because, as he said, he’s doing this out of a passion for the work itself and the history and his memories,” Fitchburg High athletic director and Crocker Field Restoration Committee vice president Ray Cosenza said. "We’re beyond thrilled that this has come out way.”
Waitkus visited the field and spoke to the committee a few months ago.
“For me to come in and to do this project, I want to make everybody who played for the football teams up there proud that I did the right job and captured it the right way,” he said. “As soon as I walked in the clubhouse, I was blown away.”
Crocker Field was planned and designed as a gift to the city of Fitchburg by Alvah Crocker, a local industrialist.
“The thing about Crocker Field is that it’s legendary,” Waitkus said. “When you think about that place, you remember the glory days of high school football with Fitchburg games against Leominster and Gardner. Some of the best games ever were held on that field.
“Crocker, among all high school fields, is my favorite place. It would be a shame if Fitchburg were ever to lose it.”
While working on the painting, Waitkus recalled some of the parallels it had with an historic painting of the old Braves Field in Boston.
“Crocker Field reminds me of the old Braves field,” he said. “If you played sports in this area, you will always remember Crocker Field. I remember looking up at the big rock and always seeing that up there and saying, ‘My gosh, what’s behind that? It was not just the field, but also it was the surroundings of Crocker Field including the landscape.
“The whole idea wasn’t to try to make money for me, it was a calling for somebody to do this. This is a good thing. It made sense to do. Somebody had to do this. I’ve done a number of events in Boston to raise money. Every one we’ve done has made some really good money.
"The whole purpose here is it’s a good cause. This is to keep up a building that has been around, and I want to see it around for another 100 years. It’s similar to Fenway Park; it’s the same cause. The ownership over there put a lot of money into it to keep it to what it is, and it’s an icon. Crocker Field is the same, as far as I’m concerned. Anyone who buys the prints is taking home a piece of history.”
The Crocker Field Restoration Commitee will be selling the four 10-by-13-inch prints, each signed by Waitkus, for $30 each, or the set of four prints for $100. The price also includes shipping and handling.
Checks can be made payable to the Crocker Field Restoration Committee, c/o Athletic Department, Fitchburg High School, 140 Arn How Farm Road, Fitchburg, 01420.
For more information, contact Cosenza at firstname.lastname@example.org, (978) 345-3245, or Waitkus via his website, www.markwaitkus.com.
—Contact Jay Gearan at email@example.com.