Rededication of Wasson Field to tell story of fallen officer

MILFORD — For more than three decades Daniel S. Wasson Field has played host to countless duels on the diamonds on the baseball and softball fields

But for many of the young players, the name Daniel Wasson might not mean very much. So next month, a rededication ceremony will introduce the city’s young sluggers to the man whose name the field bears.

“We want to hold a rededication to share his story and his sacrifice,” Milford Junior Major League Baseball President John Wezenski said about the ceremony planned for May 15.

“We might have done this last year had COVID not been a thing, but this year we wanted to make sure it was a community event where people can come out and learn about his story,” Wezenski added. “The main reason we wanted to do this is for the kids to know who they are playing for and why the field is named the way it is, and for people who are new to Milford.”

Milford Police Officer Daniel Wasson was 25 when he died while on duty on April 12, 1987. Wasson and his police dog, General, were on a routine vehicle stop on Boston Post Road when he was fatally shot by the driver, police said.

Wasson is the only Milford police officer to be killed in the line of duty.

The Milford Senior League and the field complex, located at 70 West River St., was renamed after Wasson in May 1987.

“It was 35 years ago on April 7 was when he was shot and killed, and a month later, the field was named after him,” said Wezenski.

Mayor Ben Blake says he recalls that time vividly.

“It is such a sad chapter for our community,” said Blake. “Over the last 35 years, he’s continued to be a Milford hero. We retired his number, we retired his locker, and we’ve continued to honor his service and his sacrifice.”

Blake said the city also renamed the Merritt Parkway connector in the city after Wasson.

“Each year, it’s something that we pause to reflect on,” he said.

During the rededication, which begins at 11:30 a.m., both the Joseph A. Foran High School and Jonathan Law High School bands will perform. Wasson’s brothers will be on hand to speak, and members from the American Legion Post 196 will be in attendance. A polcie dog demonstration and home run derby will also be included in the day’s events.

Eric Berendt, a family friend, said he still gets emotional when he thinks about Wasson.

“He was my friend’s oldest brother, and I was 10 at the time when Danny was killed,” he said. “When Danny was in high school, he was a great athlete and captained his football and baseball team at Foran High School. After High School, he went into the Air Force and served in the Air Force, when he came out, he entered the police academy and became a police officer.”

After becoming a police officer, Wasson became a K-9 officer, and Berendt said Wasson was showing leadership.

“Sadly, he was killed in the line of duty,” he said. “He had pulled somebody over on the Boston Post Road in Milford and was shot and killed in the early morning hours.”

Before the ceremony begins, Berendt said his son, Matthew, an Eagle Scout in Troop 1, is doing a project to refurbish the baseball dugouts at Wasson Field.

“The project is truly a community effort,” he said. “There have been more than 50 volunteer hours put into the project so far. There’s going to be several Troop 1 Boy Scouts down there when they start the project.”

The plan is to re-roof and repaint the dugouts.

A few years ago, Wezenski said the city put a banner in front of the field, explaining what happened to Wasson.

“As a department, we made a promise to Danny Wasson’s family to never forget the sacrifice he made,” said Marilisa Anania, Milford Police Department’s public information officer.

She said the department appreciates that the youth leagues want to honor Wasson and educate the young players about the field’s name and what it represents.

“We are honored to be part of this ceremony and to spend the day celebrating Danny,” she said.