FAIRFIELD — This is what it looks like when a community says thank you. Hundreds of people, spread out around the youth baseball field tucked in the back of the Richard McGee Athletic Complex, breaking out into spontaneous applause as they watch Rocky Buck catch his first glimpse of the new sign with his name and face on it. The sign announcing the ballfield’s new name.

“Welcome to Rocky Buck Field,” it reads.

“Total surprise,” Buck said after the ceremony held in his honor.

A Clinton native, Buck’s life has been about doing the small things. He’s been at the field early, getting it ready for a day full of games. Running a meeting, as the Fairfield PAL director of baseball for the last 30 years or as the organization’s President for the last eight. Building a concession stand.

“We built that concession stand, three of us,” Bill Leary said, pointing and nodding at the blue building behind Rocky Buck Field’s backstop. A strong thunderstorm blew in as they worked, and when the hail started, they took shelter in a car to wait out the rain. They watched as the wind blew over the three walls they’d already erected. When the storm passed, Buck led the crew back out to finish the job.

Leary, who has also officiated football with Buck for years, said he’d have more stories about Buck, but he has a short memory “because as an official, Rocky taught us to have short memories… He’s taught us more than anybody could know.”

Longtime PAL volunteer Bruce Roderick grew up idolizing Buck as he watched him play basketball for Lawrence High School. Now, for years colleagues on the PAL board, Roderick found himself looking up to Buck, the man who gave so much of his time so kids would have a safe, fun athletic experience.

“We love you,” Roderick said to his mentor. “You inspire us.”

Former Lawrence boys basketball coach Mike McGee, whose father’s name graces the complex in which Rocky Buck Field sits, recalled how unflappable Buck was as a basketball official. As a Lawrence graduate, Buck wasn’t allowed to officiate regular season Lawrence games, but he’d do games in the Bulldogs annual preseason tournament.

“You all know Rocky is calm and cool. I’d try to give him the business and get him going. He’d go by and smile at me.” McGee said. “Rocky’s too humble to be a legend. He’s not comfortable with that. Well Rocky, guess what? Take your place with the true legends.”

State Senator Scott Cyrway and State Representative Amanda Collamore brought thanks and congratulations to Buck from Augusta. Letters of congratulations and thanks from Senator Angus King and Representative Jared Golden were read.

Ben Dostie, another PAL volunteer and football official, spoke on Buck’s influence on his life.

“What you see is probably only a quarter of what (Buck) did,” Dostie said. “You stand there and look up at Rocky and say, that’s what I want to be. You didn’t want to let your parents down. You didn’t want to let Rocky down.”

A half dozen people spoke, but dozens more could have. Buck and his wife, Marcia, were presented a home plate with this inscription: “Rodney ‘Rocky’ Buck. On May 1, 2021, at the field dedication ceremony, The baseball field at the Richard ‘Dick’ McGee Complex in Fairfield will forever be known as Rocky Buck Field. Our tribute to a man who personifies the mission of PAL.”

Buck gave his thanks through a cracking voice, as he choked up giving it.

“Thank you for coming,” he said. “This is the biggest honor of my life.”

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