The dream that pint-sized Papis will one day hit balls off their own Green Monster will move one step closer to reality this week, when the Quincy-based Mini-Fenway Park project kicks off its capital campaign.
The idea of creating a half-size replica of Fenway -- for use by youth baseball, softball, and tee ball leagues from across New England -- began in 1997. Now, with environmental permits and a lease in place, and a hefty pledge and a new relationship with the Red Sox to be announced Tuesday, organizers say the field is finally taking shape.
Ron Iacobucci, CEO of Mini-Fenway Park, can see the field in his mind: a Pesky Pole and Green Monster looming menacingly in the outfield, Fenway's familiar brick facade, and a miniature CITGO sign all lit up. The replica will be as accurate as possible, even reflecting the changes to the .406 Club this fall.
''It will be exactly like a half-size Fenway Park -- we'll have better bathrooms, that's all," Iacobucci said.
Mini-Fenway will be built on 12 acres of state-owned land off of Ricciuti Drive in West Quincy and will seat 5,000, mimicking its bigger twin down to the last ad. Iacobucci said that CITGO officials had already been out to make measurements for their sign, and that he was working with the sponsors whose familiar signs fill Fenway, from the Coke bottle towering over the outfield to the Dunkin' Donuts billboard.
Until now, Mini-Fenway Park has been quietly raising funds for the $2 million replica stadium, but this week they plan to ramp up their efforts.
They've already received 1,000 applications for their fund-raising license plates, and when the last 500 orders roll in they plan to begin production and will hold an auction for specially numbered plates, including the 10 championship years.
Starting this week, Iacobucci said the organization would dig in its heels, line up the rest of the money, and hope to break ground by March and hold a dedication within a year.
Once the stadium is built, there are bigger plans: a baseball diamond-shaped movie theater that plays classic baseball films and Red Sox away games, a domed indoor field with batting and pitching cages, and a pro shop. A Carl Yastrzemski Museum will have special resonance at the park, since the famous hitter is the first Little League player to make it to the Hall of Fame.
Ted Spencer, a Quincy native who is now chief curator of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and sits on the board of the Mini-Fenway Project, said the park will be a great boon to the city and to baseball.
He recalled the elation he felt playing Little League on a field behind Quincy's YMCA in the 1950s: ''They built this wonderful field with a big scoreboard and walls and a dugout. To play on the main field a couple times a season was a great honor," he said, remembering sadly that the field closed, replaced by a Midas Muffler shop.
A mini-Fenway would give kids an even greater thrill, he said, as well as extending baseball's lineage to some of its youngest players.
''One of the things we do at the Hall of Fame: we connect generations. And here's a perfect example of that."