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Baseball field to be renamed in honor of the late Willem van Gemeren

May 25, 2017 Community, Sports No Comments

The late Willem van Gemeren

By John Fitts

Soon, the field used by Canton Little League will be renamed to honor both the life of a young player who died tragically at age 11 and his family, which has given so much to carry his legacy forward.

With selectmen approval Wednesday, the facility at 88 Simonds Ave., now Millennium Field, will soon be known as “Willem van Gemeren Memorial Field.” Dedication is tentatively set for June 10 and Canton Little League is funding the new sign.

In August of 2005 a plane crash in Lyme, New Hampshire took the lives of Niels Willem van Gemeren II, 11, along with his father, Niels Willem van Gemeren, 46.

Just days before his death, Willem, a star baseball player and Red Sox fan, had returned from the RBI Academy’s Trot Nixon summer baseball camp in Massachusetts. After his death, Willem’s mother Betsy began sending other Canton Little League players to the camp, which is now named after Dustin Pedroia. To date, Betsy van Gemeren has paved the way for 56 boys to enjoy the experience. The family has also provided temporary lighting for an annual night tournament and new scoreboards for the baseball field, as well as the softball field on Dyer Avenue.

Canton Little League Vice President Christopher LaPointe estimates the family donations for Little League efforts total more than $93,000. But more than dollars, are the joy and spirit they spread, he told selectmen.

“It’s not even about the money; It’s what they are doing for the community and the children (and Willem’s legacy),” he said. “There’s no better way to thank them and name the field after Willem.”

See more in next week’s Valley Press. 

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