“We are (in Burlington) at Centennial Field — one of the most historic parks, really, in baseball,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “People travel from all over to see this park. It’s been around for a long time — so the question is, why do we call it Centennial Field? How long has it been around? What goes on here? We’re going to explore a bit of that.”
“(Vermont Lake Monsters senior vice president) C.J. Knudsen has joined us,” Mike Hoey said. “My family was asking me, once I told them we were coming here today, why it has the name Centennial Field — so why does it?”
“That’s a great question,” Knudsen said. “It’s to celebrate the 100th graduating class of UVM.”
Perkins asked, “What year was the 100th graduating class from UVM?”
Knudsen answered, “1904.”
Perkins continued, “And was the field built that year?”
“Actually, two later, so 1906 is when the field opened up,” Knudsen replied. “We’re looking at the original field.”
“But not the original grandstand,” Hoey added. “I believe there was a fire at one point, as happened with a lot of (wooden) baseball stadia in that era.”
“Yes, that was in (March of 1913),” Knudsen said. “Unfortunately, there were some children playing with matches and it burned down. (It) took the University of Vermont a little while to get the funding back to build it in 1922, so the existing (concrete-and-steel) structure you see behind us is from 1922.”
“So, a centennial of its own having just passed, now,” Hoey said.
“Yes, without a doubt,” Knudsen said. “And in our eyes, Centennial has never looked better.”
“It wasn’t just a baseball field when it was first built,” Perkins noted. “There were other parts of this complex for UVM — soccer and football; even track running around this whole thing here.”
“Yeah, and that’s why there’s so much foul territory that you see when you come to the ballpark, because it used to house a running track,” Knudsen continued. “In the last couple of years, we’ve been able to bring some of the fencing in, especially on the first-base side, to make it a little bit smaller.”
“UVM had a baseball team — really, from the late 19th century, some gaps here and there — stopped as a baseball team I think in 2009,” Perkins said. “But really, the Lake Monsters have done a wonderful job updating this field kind of from that point forward.”
“Thank you — we got started here, really, in 1994, when (a minor league baseball) franchise relocated from Jamestown, New York and became the Vermont Expos, the single-A affiliate of the Montreal Expos,” Knudsen said. (That franchise) operated with the Expos for a long time until they relocated to Washington, D.C. (in 2005) and became the Nationals. Then they were with the Nationals for a while until the (Oakland) A’s came in (in 2011).
“Unfortunately, after the Major League Baseball-Minor League Baseball contract expired (in 2020), Major League Baseball made some changes to their farm system and we re-launched in 2021 after COVID as part of the Futures League.”
“Just a couple of years ago, some sports fans in the area were wondering if now-NFL quarterback Kyler Murray might end up playing short-season single-A ball with the A’s here,” Hoey said. “Because he was an A’s draft pick.”
“Yeah, without a doubt,” Knudsen continued. “A lot of the baseball players that have played for us in the past and currently play for us, they’re wonderful athletes. They’re great baseball players, great football players, great basketball players, and so they have to choose.”
Perkins asked, “Can you tell us how people can visit, how they can see a game, what they’re going to find here?”
“We’re really designed to attract the entire family,” Knudsen answered. “We draw fans from all over the state of Vermont, literally every single county, almost every single town, also drawing fans from Canada, New Hampshire, New York.
“In 2021, when we renovated the ballpark, we had a beautiful custom-made Neapolitan pizza oven from Italy flown in, and so we make all our pizza 100% home-made from scratch. People can go to vermontlakemonsters.com to check out our schedule.”