JUDIQUE/ANTIGONISH: Two local minor baseball fields that received assistance from the Toronto Blue Jays Care Foundation will officially open this weekend.
On Saturday in Antigonish, the town’s fully accessible field (The Sandlot) will officially open at 5:30 p.m.
Following the field opening, Antigonish Challenger Baseball players, buddies and coordinators will participate in a Blue Jays Take Over Challenger Baseball game presented by the Jays Care Foundation, TD and Sportsnet. The field is located at J.H. Gillis Regional School.
“We’ve gone from a grass field that served the purpose to something a little bigger to continue growing,” said Randy Crouse, who serves as a coordinator for Challenger Baseball in the Antigonish area. He’s also a coordinator on the provincial and national level.
“Our thought was, if we got funding from the Jays Field of Dreams Foundation, it would be easier to get the rest of the money raised,” he said. “From there, we got money from the town and county, the province, and multiple people and groups. It was a community effort to make it happen.”
The total cost of the accessible field is $475,000. Some of the highlights include an artificial turf infield, fencing, wheelchair accessible dugouts, benches that accommodate wheelchairs, an accessible pathway, and a canopy over the stands.
“Safety and accessibility are two big things we wanted to look at,” Crouse said.
Anyone interested in seeing the renovations and upgrades done to the Judique Baseball field is welcome to visit the field at noon this Sunday for the official grand opening.
“This brings new life to the community and the baseball program here for our kids,” said Sheldon MacDonald, executive member of Port Hood Minor Baseball, the group that includes kids from the Judique area and Mabou.
“It’s a significant challenge to come up with money for renovations and upgrades so a program like the Jays Care is really amazing.”
A total of $70,000 was allotted by the foundation in 2018, and the upgrades are now in place.
A new backstop was installed, the infield was widened to accommodate Pee Wee and Bantam games, fence caps were installed, site drainage work was done, and an exterior walkway was put in as well as a BBQ pad. Two sets of stands were purchased, and both are five rows tall.
Training material like practice screens and protective screens were also purchased, as well as a fibreglass pitching mound, field dragging equipment, and general maintenance equipment.
“We spent every cent,” MacDonald said. “This program the Jays offer is just perfect. I find a lot of people don’t know about it, but I definitely recommend it.”
Guests visiting the grand opening are asked to be on the scene no later than noon.
“We’re going to have some youth teams on the field, after the speeches and ribbon cutting, and the kids will practice and we’ll have a barbecue,” MacDonald said. “We’re hoping to get a good turn out.”
The facility is located on River Denys Road, a street that’s hard to miss in Judique as it sits walking distance from A & D Service Station and Wayne’s Variety. The field is less than a kilometer down the road, on the right.
“We’ve already gotten some nice comments on how great it looks,” he said.