When Shonda Schilling, wife of Red Sox star pitcher Curt Schilling, saw the Medfield High School softball field four years ago, the first thing she noticed was the grass growing on the infield.
Unlike baseball fields, softball infields are supposed to be turf-free.
"The first time I walked on that field - 'appalled' is probably the wrong word, but it was pretty bad," Shonda Schilling said.
Now, thanks to a donation last month of more than $150,000 by Curt Schilling and additional fund-raising efforts by the couple, the softball field and adjacent baseball field will be revamped in time for the start of the season in the spring.
The donation was a surprise 40th birthday present for Shonda Schilling, but the gift took on a new dimension when she found out her husband had arranged for the complex to be named in her honor.
"I just want the fields built, and it's cool that they'll have my name on them," she said in an interview last week.
A youth softball coach, she said it will be a little weird to guide her team on fields that bear her name.
"It's almost embarrassing," she said. "I'm sure I'll be ragged for it."
Although the Schillings say they want to make a permanent home in Medfield, their future in the area wasn't certain when Curt Schilling made the donation. Youth baseball officials say they had a check in hand during the World Series, before Schilling signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Red Sox for next season.
Schilling has said he left "money on the table" by staying with the team, but Shonda Schilling said the couple considered their four school-age children when making a decision.
"We've made them move their whole lives, and now they don't want to move," she said. Before joining the Red Sox, Curt Schilling pitched for teams in Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia, and Arizona. "When there are tears involved, it makes you alter your plans."
Although the couple still plans on selling their 27-acre, gated Medfield estate, Curt Schilling said he hopes to build the family's "final home" in a local neighborhood where his children will be able to interact with other kids their age.
"I'd like to be able to live in a home that didn't have a gate and a security system," he said. "Right now, it is a necessity."
Schilling said he wants to retire in a place where he and his family are treated as neighbors, not celebrities.
"I don't want to downplay what baseball has given us," Schilling said. "The recognition we've gotten from baseball has allowed us to do a lot of things we wouldn't have been able to do. But I want my kids to be able to grow up on their own.
"The longer we're in Medfield, the more a part of the community we become," Schilling added. "It's gotten to the point where I think the people in Medfield are very comfortable with us."
"This is like Mayberry right here," Shonda Schilling said. "There's a sense of community."
The school district's superintendent, Robert Maguire, said the family has been "terrific."
"I've heard nothing but nice things," Maguire said. "They've stepped up in all kinds of different capacities, from large to small."
Maguire added that he tries to give the Schillings their space. "They should have the opportunity to be regular parents and not have people bothering them all the time," he said.
Maguire, like other school officials, was tightlipped about the exact amount of Schilling's donation to the fields project, but he said it was "unprecedented in terms of generosity."
Curt Schilling said he was uncomfortable talking about the figure, but confirmed that it was more than $150,000.
"Without this donation, we wouldn't be starting" work on the project, said Jeff Tapley, president of Medfield Youth Baseball/Softball.
The project will include the installation of irrigation and drainage systems, as well as dugouts and scoreboards. The infields will be completely rebuilt, said Medfield athletic director Jon Kirby.
In addition to the donation, the Schillings helped to orchestrate a gift from Needham Bank, which has agreed to match donations up to a total of $50,000.
The couple also helped raise about $37,000 with a fund-raiser last week at the high school, where they screened a DVD of highlights from Boston's journey to the World Series title this fall.
"You are stuck with the Schillings," Shonda Schilling told the approximately 1,000 people in attendance Friday night.
"We have dreamt all our lives of this phase of our career," Curt Schilling told the crowd.
"When you see us around town, it's a lot more enjoyable to us if you skip the 'Oh my God, it's Curt Schilling' and go straight to 'How are you doing? How are the kids?'
"This town has given us that," he said. "There was nowhere else for us to be this final season. This is home for us."