2016 has been a magical season at Reifsteck Field.
In 2015, the Brighton Barons won the Connors and Ferris Bowl II Championship and carried the momentum into this season. As seen in Pygmies of ’69 and Working on the Chain Gang, the Barons won their division for the first time since 1999 and entered the sectionals with a 6 – 1 record.
Not since that 1999 team went undefeated in the regular season before losing to Canandaigua in the semifinals has there been this much buzz at Reifsteck Field.
The Field is named after legendary coach Brighton coach and athletic director Edward “Etsy” Reifsteck who died of cancer at age 47 in 1952. (See more on Reifsteck at end.)
Tonight’s sectional game against Spencerport is a first in Reifsteck’s long history. As its “Game of the Week,” Time-Warner Cable is showing the matchup live and its entirety. As best determined, the game is the first ever such event televised at the Field. About 5 years ago, a Homecoming game at Reifsteck was televised but shown on tape delay.
Over the years, Reifsteck has had its shares of firsts and improvements.
A September 21st, 1969 D & C article mentioned the home opener on Booster’s Day “marked the opening of a new press booth to supplement an electric scoreboard, making the facility one of the best in the Central Western Conference.”
As explained by Social Studies teacher Mike Noto (now in his 34th year at BHS), in the early 2000s light were first installed. Following discussions with the surrounding community, the school agreed that games would end before 10pm. Several members of Reifsteck’s family came to a re-dedication ceremony that Mike found very moving.
In 2007, artificial turf was installed. As noted by D & C blogger Scott Ellman the installation — costing about 500,000 — was not without controversy. Over the years, however, the field — refurbished a couple of years ago — has been very popular. And, the initial investment has been more than offset by fees charged for the use of the field.
In 2011, a new electric scoreboard was installed. As discussed by Bob Matthews, the Herb Carlberg Memorial Fund raised money for the lights, including a 17,000 donation from Howard Ouriel.
And, as seen in Brighton celebrates its volleyball champions, Reifsteck is home to several flag football “Turkey Bowls” over Thanksgiving weekend.
Yesterday, I learned more from Brighton athletic director Nate Merritt about the Time Warner televised game. Taking me to the press box, Nate explained the event is part of an ongoing plan to upgrade the press booth facilities.
As Nate says, everyone knows the facility — not that changed since 1969 — needs an upgrade. For example, for this game Toth’s Sports temporarily installed a new sound system to improve the tv and the press box broadcasts, and provide a better fan experience. Nate’s goal is to have a permanent new sound system and more televised games in the future.
Although Nate went to Eastridge where he played baseball, he remembers Brighton’s impressive run in 1999. Nate was friends with Brighton’s star player, Tim Blackmon, who earned four letters in football and four letters in baseball and named the Monroe County Player of the Year in 2000.
Nate recalls one particular baseball game against Blackmon’s Barons played on the varsity field, then behind the Brighton High School. In 1999 the field was enclosed with short outfield fences. That day the wind was blowing out and Eastridge and Brighton played an epic extra inning slugfest ending 19 – 17. With all the balls flying out of the park, Nate guesses Tim probably cleared the short porch.
Tim would go on to play baseball at MCC and St. Johns University. Nate says Tim tried out a few times for the minors. Tim had one last hurrah when in 2014, at age 31, he pitched and played the field for the Las Vegas Train Robbers in the Pecos League.
Before tonight’s game, despite the rain, the TWC crew was undeterred. Along with WHAM’s Toby Motyk, TWC’s Chuck Hinkel got wet during his on-field pre-game segment.
And the Barons prevailed, 40 – 20.
On Edward J. “Etsy” Reisteck.
Reifsteck was a prominent and universally respected figure in the Rochester sports world from the late 20s to his death in 1952 at age 47. Before becoming Brighton’s coach and athletic director in 1947, Reifsteck coached several high school teams and was president of the Coaches’ Association.
In retrospect, most intriguing was Reifsteck’s time with the now forgotten semi-pro Rochester Russers.
Although the D & C extensively covered the team, on the internet I found few references to the Russers. Backed by local wrestler Max Russer, the team began as the sandlot Dutchtown Russers, playing against the Jeffersons, the Oxfords and the Scalpers.
Reifsteck played for the Russers from 1927 – 1929. For least several years in the 1940s, Reifsteck returned as the head coach. Apparently, Reiftsteck stepped down from his position with the Russers when he became the Brighton athletic director.
During Reifsteck’s tenure at Brighton, he coached several strong squads and In 1952, Reifsteck was forced to take a leave of absence, and died several months later. Upon his death was a great outpouring of sympathy and love. A few years after his death, Reifsteck Field was named in his memory.