Members of the Socializers, a former Green Grass League softball team, pose for a team picture in this 1986 photo. Ellsworth’s Jeff Gammelin (bottom right) is planning a reunion event for the league July 28. JEFF GAMMELIN PHOTO

Making old times new: Green Grass League set for reunion after 25 years

ORLAND — The visual details on two photos three decades old are hard to make out, but Jeff Gammelin remembers them fondly.

One color photo on his desk at Freshwater Stone in Orland has edges that have faded after years inside a frame. The other, black and white, has hints of film grain that could be found on old photographic film.

The faces pictured of the roughly two-dozen softball players pictured are a lot less clear than they would have been in real life on those summer days in the 1980s, but some — Ellsworth boys’ soccer coach Paul Lock and Bucksport boys’ basketball legend Dennis Hopkins, for instance — are particularly notable. One of the men, pictured in bottom-right corner of the color photo, is Gammelin.

Gammelin, now 68, was one of the most active players in the Green Grass League, a now-defunct recreational softball league that once played games throughout Bucksport. Now, years after the final Green Grass League pitch was thrown, he wants to revive the fanfare and festivities for another weekend with a reunion event.

“I know people are going to want to do this, and I’d like to see what we can get together,” Gammelin said. “We’re starting to get the logistics of it sorted out, and I’m excited to see everything put together.”

The idea for a league reunion first came to Gammelin about a month ago as the 25th anniversary of the final opening day approached. In need of help organizing the event and spreading the word, he reached out to Nick Tymoczko about making it happen.

Tymoczko, who serves as the Down East Family YMCA’s Bucksport director, was more than happy to oblige. He had been in search of a way to help recreational sports league gain more of a foothold in the town, and a reunion game for a fondly remembered bygone league presented the perfect chance for him to do so.

“Leagues like adult softball are a classic example of what recreation departments can bring to a community,” Tymoczko said. “Many adults in our community share fond memories of adult softball.”

Members of the Green Grass League’s Hopkins Construction included Bucksport boys’ basketball legend Dennis Hopkins and his four brothers. The League began in 1975 and continued to grow before disbanding in 1993. VALERIE HOPKINS PHOTO

The foundation for the Green Grass League began in the early 1970s when Gammelin, Chuck McGinty and about a dozen other players first started getting together for games. Word soon spread about their meet-ups, which started to gather more players and take place more regularly.

With the help of former Bucksport Parks and Recreation Director Tim Emery, local interest in the sport soon gave way to an eight-team league that began play in 1975. Games brought players from Ellsworth, Bucksport, Prospect and everywhere in between to Bucksport High School’s old baseball field and other ball diamonds throughout town.

“We picked the Green Grass League as the name because those fields really did have the greenest grass you ever saw,” Gammelin said. “Our friends and our wives would come, and we would always be joking and teasing each other. We’d go to Crosby’s for ice creams after games twice a week.”

The Green Grass League continued to grow in the early 1980s before peaking at 16 teams and more than 200 players by decade’s end. It came to an end in 1993, 18 years after it officially began.

“I think it just ran its course,” Gammelin said. “We were all older, and it was a lot more organized and serious at that point than it had been in the years before. That’s not really what we wanted it to be about.”

The Green Grass League’s prime, though, might have come during that stretch in the early ’80s. That was before the league reached its high water mark in terms of participation, but it was, in Gammelin’s mind, the era in which it was at its best.

“At that point, we were all telling ourselves, ‘Hey, this thing could really go on for a while,’” Gammelin said. “We had been at it for a few years, and it was only getting bigger.”

Teams in the league had shirt sponsorships from area businesses such as Hoffman Insurance and the old paper mill. Some teams were named after their sponsors, while others chose monikers such as the Troublemakers, Golden Gophers and Socializers.

Gammelin wants to recreate some of those teams of old as much as possible, though he acknowledged combining them would be a much more likely possibility. Gammelin has also expressed interest in hiring a physical therapist in case of injuries.

“It’s going to be a reality check for all of us,” Gammelin said. “I don’t think anyone can run or move around like we used to. Some of us haven’t swung a bat since then.”

The fields on which the Green Grass League played are long gone, but that fact presents the league’s former players to make what’s old new. Just as they played on the Bucksport’s old high school field years ago, they will do the same on the team’s new field on Elm Street.

“We want it to be just like it was back then,” Gammelin said. “It was just such a great time in our lives, and we made so many memories together. I think there will be a lot of people who want to come back and play because it’s a chance to relive that.”

The date for the reunion has been set for 9 a.m. July 28. Whether that includes a head-to-head matchup or a series of round-robin games, Gammelin and Tymoczko will ensure an old era comes back to life for one last summer day.

“These guys will have a blast,” Tymoczko said. “The new broom may sweep clean, but the old broom knows the corners.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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