By Dedra Cordle
When Kert Lanam, the resource officer at Central Crossing High School, said good morning to his favorite students on Monday, he was a bit surprised by the level of excitement within the classroom.
“Everyone was really pumped up,” he recalled.
He had an inkling of what had made them all so happy, but he asked anyway. As suspected, their answer was a baseball game that had taken place two days prior.
On Sept. 13, most of the students in that classroom could be found on Field 11 at Windsor Park in Grove City. There, they made spectacular catches, crushed hits at the plate and danced around the diamond when teammates and opponents did something positive.
It was a day of fun for everyone involved and the good feelings it brought forth appears to have followed them well after the game ended.
“They were just so excited to participate and it was all they could talk about on Monday,” said Lanam. “They told me they couldn’t wait to play again.”
Unfortunately for these budding baseball stars, they might not get to play again this year since it is so late in the season. But fortunately for them, they will be able to play next year in a league of their own.
In April, there will be a groundbreaking for a new baseball diamond at Windsor Park. It will not have the dimensions of the typical field. Rather, it would be retrofitted to meet the needs of those with physical and developmental challenges so they can play America’s favorite pastime as well.
Though Little League International has offered adaptive baseball programs for boys and girls for 25 years through its Challenger Division, next year will mark the first time the games will be played in Grove City. Justin Terry, a sophomore at Central Crossing who participated in the Sept. 13 game, already expressed his interest in being on the team.
“I did have a lot of fun today,” he said.
His mother, Davina Terry, said having a field built for those with challenges would be a wonderful thing for the community.
“We always wanted to take him to Dublin to play baseball (the city built a special needs field in 2011), but it’s far away,” she said. “Having one so close to where we live will be great.”
The Dream Field, as it will be called, was envisioned during a conversation between Larry Thomas and his nephew, Shane Williams.
While living in Georgia, Williams came across a baseball game that was played by people with physical challenges. Impressed and inspired by what he saw, he could not wait to tell Thomas, who had worked with the Boston Red Sox for 32 years, all about it.
“The day he told me, it was like something had emblazed in my mind,” said Thomas. “I thought it would be a great thing to see that here in Grove City and it really lit a fire under my butt.”
Since he was a member of the Grove City Little League Board, he addressed the topic at a meeting. His idea was met with enthusiasm.
After some “red-tape struggles,” Thomas managed to secure donations from county entities, local businesses, residents and baseball lovers. He even helped organize the Sept. 13 game in a month’s time to raise more awareness for the cause. To date, roughly $70,000 has been raised to build the Dream Field, but they have not yet met their goal.
“Our goal is to raise $242,000,” said Thomas. “That’s a lot, but the surface alone costs $125,000.”
He said even with the groundbreaking date slated for April, he is confident they will raise enough money to build the field and put a league together.
“This is a good community,” he said. “I think when people hear what we are trying to do, they’ll be ready to jump on the bandwagon.”
For donation information, the Grove City Little League Board can be reached by phone at 738-8361 or at www.gclittleleague.com.