BERLIN - A local baseball field was named after a local baseball player, as part of renaming a whole park in town.
Percival baseball field was renamed to Paul K. Baretta field, as the whole park at Highland Avenue, including the ball field, Percival Pool and Percival Soccer Field, was renamed to Percival Park.
The name change came by way of a town council decision, to honor the late Baretta after the Parks and Rec. commission forwarded the idea from Cory Carlson, the nephew of Baretta and cousin to his daughter, Andrea. Paul Baretta, 69, died in May earlier this year.
“I’m happy and thrilled,” said Andrea Baretta. “My father was very humble. I think he would be honored.”
The renaming idea came as Paul Baretta started his baseball career at the baseball field, where he grew up around the corner from and played little league - setting rumored to be the record for home runs - at, and for the high school team between 1961 and 1965. He was the starting shortstop between his sophomore and senior year, during that tenure, and averaged a .480 batting average while winning several accolades during those years.
Continuing on to Southern Connecticut State University from ‘65 to ‘69, he was drafted by the Yankees in 1969 in the 32nd round, playing in the minor leagues through 1973. Following a brief stint as the St. Thomas Aquinas High School baseball coach, in 1978 he returned to Berlin High School has the head coach where his teams won the conference championship in 1980, 1983 and 1984, while he was a physical education and health teacher at the school. The high school team playing at Sage park prior to his arrival as coach, he returned the team to Baretta field because of the atmosphere it provided.
Returning to the major leagues, Paul Baretta was as a scouting supervisor for the New York Mets between 1988 and 1998 and the Kansas City Royals from 1998 to 2000 and signed six players who went on to play in the majors, during those 12 years. He returned to Connecticut and was a one to one baseball instructor year round for Goose Major League Instruction LLC, before he died on May 8, 2017.
“By the time I got to the pros I was already comfortable because of the way (Paul Baretta) coached us in high school” said Mauro Gozzo, who played under him at Berlin High School and is a baseball instructor now. Gozzo, who played in the majors for the Mets, Twins and Blue Jays was a member of the 1984 team that made it to the state championship game played in New Britain.
“He didn’t let you take a play off,” said Gozzo, who recalled Paul Baretta making sure uniforms were worn a certain way, over a hundred ground balls would be hit to each player during practice and even the pitchers would participate in running drills. “If you didn’t field (a ball) the right way we got on to you and held you accountable....he made everyone better because we knew everyone else was going hard,” said Gozzo, adding in the late 80s having a high school coach, coach in such a way was pretty rare.
At the same time, Gozzo shared Paul Barretta had a sense of humor by being a part of the team, mingling with the players and having fun on the bus travel for road games.
“It’s the way coaching should be” Gozzo said. “He built Berlin baseball.”
While submitting the idea to the Parks and Rec. Commission, eight letters were submitted by former players, friends and family in support of the name change, appreciating the seriousness Paul Baretta took to baseball and devotion he had for helping the sport in his hometown, at his home field. Baretta would practice at the field during his college summer breaks, according to one letter.
According to Andrea Baretta, who’s husband is the assistant coach and cousin is the head coach of Northwest Catholic, plans are in the works for the BHS team to play a game against Northwest Catholic at Paul Baretta field in the spring for an official renaming ceremony. Andrea Baretta’s other cousin, brother to the head coach at Northwest Catholic also played in the big leagues for the Blue Jays.
“(Paul) helped so many different generations of players,” said Andrea Baretta, who went on to play volleyball and softball and remembered her dad hitting ground balls to her when she was five years old, as he raised her as a single parent after her parents got a divorce. “He got the best out of a player’s ability and once he did, he went back and helped kids by taking time and breaking down their fundamentals.”
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.