ANTIGONISH: The Antigonish Angels Minor Baseball Association has been approved for funding from the Blue Jay’s Field of Dreams program.
Antigonish Challenger Baseball coordinator Randy Crouse recalled that in September 2016, he and representatives with minor baseball and softball leagues started discussing how their programs were growing and how they needed fields to accommodate this demand. They then submitted their application to the Blue Jays fund last September.
“We kind’ve just started brainstorming, we thought it would be a good opportunity to bring in, one new fields, but also fields that would be made accessible for kids who use wheelchairs, or walkers… to make it a little easier for them to play, but not just play, we also have volunteers and family members with mobility issues as well.”
Crouse said the group then applied for a Jays Care Field of Dreams grant which involved “a lot of paperwork, some quotes, and letters of support.”
In December, the local group found out they were on the short list of grant recipients and in mid-April they learned they were approved for $150,000 to be put toward a new field.
Crouse said this gives the Angels the opportunity to grow their program and host large scale events, all the while keeping accessibility at the forefront of their goals.
“It’s pretty exciting times… with the growth here,” Crouse said. “The fields were outdated and weren’t the safest fields, so this allows us to improve on safety and accessibility and to host events provincially, on the Atlantic level, and hopefully the national level as well.
“We were kind’ve of limited by our fields. We could only take x-number of kids, we could only host certain events.”
Crouse said with the money, they will make improvements to what is currently known as “Field 1,” which is currently a makeshift grass field, by installing a turf infield, re-sodding and levelling the outfield, putting up new fencing, constructing wheelchair accessible dug-outs and accessible seating, and erecting a new backstop.
“It’s definitely going to help improve the programs we have to offer,” Crouse said.
Crouse said volunteers are awaiting approval for two grants, conducting fundraising and organizing the start of the baseball season. Construction has already started on “Field 2” and will be complete before the start of the National Special Olympics in Antigonish starting on May 31.
Once that work is complete, Crouse added that work will start on “Field 1.”