Bromfield assistant baseball coach Ed Denmark takes a hack in a practice last season. Denmark is also the police chief for the Town of Harvard.
Bromfield assistant baseball coach Ed Denmark takes a hack in a practice last season. Denmark is also the police chief for the Town of Harvard. (Nashoba Publishing/Kent Boynton)

HARVARD -- Harvard police chief Ed Denmark would much rather be on a baseball diamond than behind his desk at the station on Ayer Road.

Denmark played baseball at Ayer High School, where he graduated in 1985. His unwavering love for the game did not stop there.

He had the opportunity to play in college, but arm injuries put Denmark's baseball career on hold.

Denmark started his coaching career at Ayer in 1995, while he was a police officer in the town.

Now he is the chief in neighboring Harvard, where he has adopted a Bromfield baseball team that is slowly climbing back up the ranks under its new skipper, Fred McDonald. Denmark has been helping out the Bromfield baseball program since 2003.

Ever since that very first season, it has been a fun experience for the Harvard police chief.

"One of the first things I realized when I took the job in Harvard, there was not a real strong relationship between the police department and the kids in the schools," Denmark said. "I thought I could leverage my love for baseball and my experience with coaching to help bridge that gap.

"It has worked out well," said Denmark, "and it has been a lot of fun. You get the kids to view you as a coach instead of a police officer. It helps people open up to me by having casual conversations they would not normally have with you as the police chief. It has been nothing but positive for me."

Denmark's playing career resumed 12 years after his graduation from Ayer High School, when he joined an Over 30 league team in New Hampshire, but a rotator cuff surgery put an end to that.

Denmark currently plays in the Central Mass over 40 baseball league for the Fitchburg Red Sox.

The police chief makes his home on the right side of the infield at first or second base in the wooden bat league that encompasses 11 teams from Central Mass.

"I ran into Greg Piccuci who is the coach up in Gardner now," Denmark said. "He is the first guy I coached with back in Ayer.

He's a Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer. Piccuci asked if I was still playing ball and I said 'no.' He replied, well, you are now."

Coach Denmark takes his seat on the bucket of baseballs with a jumbo bag of sunflower seeds in tow offering instruction to the team as they come back inside the dugout, and of course, doling out a few wisecracks.

Baseball is a fun game and Denmark, along with the rest of the Bromfield coaching staff, is out to preserve that.

When the team won its first game of the season in cold conditions at Clinton High School, Denmark was the first one to greet the players as they exited the field overcome with jubilation.

"I love teaching kids how to play baseball the right way," Denmark said. "I have met a lot of accomplished coaches over the years and I have learned a lot from them. I have had the pleasure of coaching with Kurt Russell, the head coach of Western Oklahoma, who has won national junior college titles.

" I have coached with a lot of great coaches and I have picked the good from all of them. I think I know the game pretty well.

"Nothing bothers me more than watching kids play who never learned the fundamentals of the game."

Coach Denmark still talks to players he has coached and they often thank him for what he did for them as a person and a baseball player.

"I run into kids who I coached in 2004 here at Bromfield and they're now in their mid-to-late 20's and they still refer to me as coach," he said. "I run into young men who I coached in the 1990s that have families now and they still refer to me as coach.

"To me being referred to as coach is a term of endearment. It means more to me than when someone calls me chief."