Field of Dreams celebrates 2017 Opening Day
By Martie Thompson
Saturday, Feb. 4 marked the seventh Opening Day for Field of Dreams and the first one at its new field in Aberdeen Park. Field of Dreams is a specially designed baseball field that allows special needs children to play America’s favorite sport. Over the years, the original field serving NW St. Johns County that opened in 2010 had deteriorated to the point that it had become unsafe for play.
Kevin Thomas, secretary of the board of directors of Field of Dreams, said, “St. Johns County provided much of the funding for the new field. The new field cost $140,000. We need to raise another $100,000 to finish the field so we can start other leagues for special needs children.”
The county also added five-step bleachers and landscaping to beautify the area.
The Opening Day ceremony began with the National Anthem sung by teenager Alyssa Billings of Fruit Cove. St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns attended the celebration and spoke of the importance of this program to the community.
Johns said, “I was honored to have been asked to be part of the Opening Day program. I have supported Field of Dreams for a number of years; my daughter teaches special education, so this cause is very special to me.”
Johns pointed to the tens of thousands of dollars raised by volunteers to supplement the funding provided by the county as a good example of a public/private partnership that allows tax dollars to be stretched.
Five games were played throughout Opening Day. Thus far, according to Thomas, 138 children on 10 teams are registered. Approximately 20 of the special needs athletes are either in a wheelchair, use a walker, or are legally blind or deaf. The special needs athletes are supported by buddies and on Opening Day, baseball and softball players from Bartram Trail High School volunteered.
Concessions at the Field of Dreams are free, due to donations and employees from Allstate run the concession stand each week. Hot dogs are provided by the Knights of Columbus from San Juan Del Rio Catholic Church. The Knights are also the Color Guard for each game.
Thomas said, “There is no charge for participating in Field of Dreams and we accept new registrations all season long. Each athlete receives a full baseball uniform and is aided during the game by volunteer buddies, who are typically local middle school to college age school athletes.”
Field of Dreams, developed with exceptional children in mind, is a part of Creeks Athletic Association. Any child who cannot typically play in standard recreational baseball can play in the Field of Dreams league. This includes any child, from age five (kindergarten) to age 18 (or 21 if still in high school), no matter his or her level of ability, who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, as defined in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 including caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working
Field of Dreams is a part of Creeks Athletic Association, a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3), Community Development organization. Visit www.FODBaseball.com to learn more about Field of Dreams or to register your child, or to make a donation to this program.
Photo courtesy Gene Kolisnyk
Field of Dreams head umpire George Vancore assists a young batter.