THEY BUILT IT AND THEY STILL COME-DICK MEISS LATEST ADIRONDACK BANK 12TH MAN
Richard “Dick Meiss” Latest Adirondack Bank 12th Man
Most baseball fans or movie buffs love to watch Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones live “the life” most baseball fans would be happy to call their own, in the “Field of Dreams,” the 1989 epic that actually led to the building of baseball “Fields of Dreams” all across the nation.
Sometimes fantasy and reality come as close to each other as they possibly can in the case of the latest Adirondack Bank 12th Man. For Dick Meiss fantasy and reality have melded into one and no truer line can be said than “build it and he will come.”
“If you build it he will come,” is the exact quote from the movie. Dick Meiss helped build it and he keeps coming back for more and more. Baseball that is. The love of our 12th Man’s life
Indeed. Since a balmy summer’s night back on June 28th 1998, no truer words have ever been said at baseball’s local “Field of Dreams,” better known as the Rome Baseball Association’s DeLutis Field baseball complex.
Yes, we can now truly call it a complex, as the finishing touches are being done on the fourth field now under construction at the “Griff”. “Unless we buy more land we’re about done.. we have stretched our space limits,” said Meiss. He also added, “but you never know.”
Thanks to visionaries like Dick Meiss, Larry DeLutis, Jeff DeLutis, Bill Fleet, Charlie Constantino, Tony Abone, Gerry Fiorini, former Rome Mayor Carl Eilenberg, and Mark Minnicozzi, just to name a few, local baseball players can enjoy the “sweet science” on a true “Field of Dreams”.
I dare you to find a weed, especially one of those dreaded dandelions that grace most of our lawns this time of year, on any one of three playing fields at DeLutis.
Dick Meiss won’t have any of that. Try to find one, just one…ok you can’t. I won’t even tell you that the master groundskeeper, public address announcer, schedule maker, advertising salesmen, construction worker, baseball ambassador, laughed out loud when he said to me, “don’t ask my wife Karen about weeds or the lawn…she often has reminded me, in a not so subtle fashion, that our lawn has needed to be mowed, to respectable levels to keep up with the Joneses,let alone be checked for dandelions.”
I digress. Back to that summer night in 1998. Like expectant fathers, Meiss and Carl Eilenberg stood in the press box at DeLutis Field #1 and waited for the fans to turn left into the new Rome Baseball Association Field, as two Rome rivals, Rome Free Academy and Rome Catholic got together to play the inaugural game on the DeLutis Diamond.
If you know anything about Romans, you know that they come and they come strong when it comes to supporting one of their own. In this case, several of their own and the army of local volunteers, who made this dream come true.
As it turns out, the wait was not a long one, as the procession of cars and trucks carrying fans of the Black Knights and Red Wings, or just proud Romans, made its way to the brand spanking new ball yard.
The proud papas (the board members of the Rome Baseball Association) were overwhelmed, as Meiss fondly talked about the great opening night and he recollected that the game played that night was a great one. “When we saw the parade of cars start to turn left toward the field and not stop, we knew it was worth the effort.” “We knew we had a new home for baseball in Rome.”
A diverse group of supporters of amateur baseball, semi-professional baseball, American Legion baseball, high school baseball, had all come together to create a true “Field of Dreams.”
It would be a difficult task to add up the number of games that are played at the three fields at DeLutis. Here’s a guideline to use: in 2011 an estimated 466 games were played over the course of the season. Your guess is as good as mine, but in 14 years you can just imagine how many ball games have been played at the big “D”.
Getting Dick Meiss to slow down long enough to spend “quality time” with me is an accomplishment in itself. I got to do that last week and am certainly glad I did.
Being a native Roman myself it is hard to imagine that our paths have never crossed for more than two or three minutes, as we both prepared to go about our duties at ball parks and gyms around the Mohawk Valley.
Another two words we should Google to know more about Meiss are full-circle. It seems that no matter how hard Meiss tries to take a different career path, he ends up right back where he started, around the sport he truly loves, baseball.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when Meiss uttered those words, telling me that the game he truly loves is played on a diamond and not on the ice.
After all, what Rome Free Academy High School Hockey fan doesn’t know about the illustrious career Meiss enjoyed as the Head Coach of the two time New York State Champion RFA Black Knights.
Meiss spent 13 years at the helm helping build and continue the rich tradition the Rome Free Academy Hockey program has become. One that saw the 1986 and 1988 teams win New York State Championships.
The 88 crew went undefeated (25-0) and beat Albany Academy to claim the crown. In 1989 the Black Knights almost came up with a three-peat of their own, when they reached the New York State Final Four and ended up (24-1). The loss to St. Johns of Plattsburgh ended a 49 game winning streak for the Black Knights. Talk about setting the bar high.
Meiss certainly left his mark on the program and his life lessons relayed to his players. His laid back, matter of fact, coaching style certainly hit home with his players and legions of fans.
Players like Peter Mastracco, Jim Pinti, Derek DeCosty, Mike Dominic. How about those names RFA hockey fans? Dominic was a captain on the 85-86 team along with Lee Iannotti and Derek DeCosty. The 1988-1989 Knights had four captains, Jim Pinti, John Catalano, Peter Previte and Damon DeCosty.
Despite all of the wins and all of the honors, Meiss was most happy to talk about the impact the young men he coached had on his life and had a big grin on his face when he talked about one of his favorite things; “When I hear the name coach being yelled out at a ball game or in the aisle of a grocery store… that’s when I’m happiest… you can’t imagine what it feels like to have a former player call you “coach”.
So how does a man who mows the lawn at a baseball complex and schedule over four hundred games a year at the DeLutis baseball complex become a hockey coach?
Dick grew up in Rome and had the pleasure of playing hockey and baseball for RFA in the mid 1960′s and graduated in 1965. His early year’s were heavily influenced by his dad George, an avid baseball fan himself, who was instrumental in starting the Rome National Little League at Rome Cable Field.
After graduating high school, Meiss spent four years serving his Country in the United States Air Force. He followed his service up by spending two years at Herkimer County Community College as a Physical Education Major. Two more years of higher education at SUNY Cortland helped earn Meiss a Bachelors Degree.
Following his college career, Meiss returned to Rome and became the Rome Free Academy junior varsity Lacrosse coach in 1976. There were no baseball coaching positions available. “I had no chance to coach baseball, it seems like I always missed out on the baseball jobs… that’s why I am thrilled to do what I do now and be around the game I love best, baseball. I am at my best when I get to slow down long enough to watch the games unfold in front of me here at DeLutis. Each one has a life of its own, each one is timeless, that’s my time, watching the game.”
1976 was a good year for Dick. Not only did he find a job that ultimately led to “ the” job, Rome Free Academy Athletic Director, but he also found the love of his life, his wife Karen. “I am fortunate to have found Karen… you can’t imagine how lucky I am to have found a person who understands just how much time my position here at DeLutis takes away from her. I am a lucky guy.”
Meiss must be a good salesmen, as well, because Karen spent almost seven years helping run the concession stand at DeLutis, talk about a family affair.
Speaking of the Meiss family, the proverbial “apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree,” as Dick’s son Tom is currently the Athletic Director and you guessed it, varsity baseball coach at Oriskany High School. Dad often gets to watch his son coach on his well groomed fields.
Tom’s wife Angela just so happens to be the varsity basketball coach at Oriskany, as well. You really can’t make this stuff up folks.
Oriskany fans often are treated with the site of mom and dad chasing their young son, Caden, around the gym prior to a Redskins hoops game. Or when they are both busy, grandpa Dick and grandma Karen or maybe aunt Kristen, Dick’s daughter, have had the honors as well. Kristen lives in Rome and is a Speech Therapist at Ridge Mills Middle School.
In 1997 the dream did come true as Meiss was named Athletic Director at Rome Free Academy after being mentored by the likes of Charlie Dain and Bill Coughlin, two men Meiss speaks of with a special respect and reverence.
His seven year tenure as AD was one he truly enjoyed. When that time ended Meiss plunged head long and feet first into his current position as “Director of Baseball Operations”. Dick doesn’t care much about titles, and had to think for several seconds before he came up with one. He is more concerned about the work that is needed to keep DeLutis running smoothly.
Meiss went out of his way to praise Jeff DeLutis, the longtime President of the Rome Baseball Association, for his love and support of the complex and the game of baseball played by the thousands of local players who have circled the bases on “The Base.”
At any given time, you can watch Hamilton College take the field, Rome Free Academy take the field, New York Mills take the field, Parkhurst Post American Legion take the field, Cal Ripken teams take the field, you just never know who might show up to play ball at DeLutis.
You can’t be sure of who you will see on the diamond, but one thing you can be sure of is that somewhere within shouting distance you will be able to find Dick Meiss, the latest “Adirondack Bank 12th Man.”
Find a dandelion at DeLutis, I dare you! DeLutis is truly a “Field of Dreams.” Dick Meiss helped build it and as they say in the movie, “If you build it he will come.”