Field of Ability to be ready in summer 2020

Dignitaries hold a cheque for $250,000 for the Field of Ability project Saturday, June 15, 2019 in West Zwicks Centennial Park in Belleville, Ont. From left are TSN anchor Jennifer Hedger, Mayor Mitch Panciuk, Field of Ability chair Lisa Newman-Chesher, TSN anchor Darren Dutchyshen and Kraft-Heinz Canada brand manager Matt Bruce. Luke Hendry/Belleville Intelligencer/Postmedia Network Luke Hendry / Luke Hendry/The Intelligencer

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Construction of Belleville’s Field of Ability is imminent and should be ready in summer 2020.

“The shovels are going into the ground as soon as it dries up,” Field of Ability chair Lisa Newman-Chesher said Saturday in West Zwicks Centennial Park.

The accessible, rubberized baseball field will be home to the local Challenger baseball team and built in Belleville’s Parkdale Veterans Park, where the team already plays.

Challenger baseball allows people with disabilities to play an adaptive form of baseball while aided by “buddies” who push wheelchairs, catch and throw the ball, bat, etc. as needed.

Supporters celebrated during Saturday’s gathering at West Zwicks as Newman-Chesher and Mayor Mitch Panciuk accepted a cheque for $250,000 from Kraft Heinz brand manager Matt Bruce. The money was the grand prize in the company’s 2018 Project Play contest; the local project won the national vote.

“It’s amazing heartwarming to live in a community that has done so much” to support the project, Newman-Chesher said.

“Everyone has done their part.

“It’s a beautiful thing to see that we’re encouraging inclusiveness.”

Saturday’s edition of TSN’s SportsCentre broadcasted live with anchors Jennifer Hedger and Darren Dutchyshen taking part in the afternoon presentation.

People in West Zwicks Centennial Park in Belleville, Ont. Saturday, June 15, 2019 watch Canada defeat New Zealand 2-0 in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. It was followed by a live broadcast of TSN’s SportsCentre. Luke Hendry/Belleville Intelligencer/Postmedia Network

This season’s Challenger team has 71 players and nearly as many buddies.

John Graszat’s son, Corbin, 10, has been playing for at least three years.

“It was the first sort of team thing he’d done,” Graszat said.

When people need wheelchairs, he said, “There aren’t many opportunities for them to do things with other people.”

Graszat remembered Corbin starting to play before a cheering crowd.

“It was incredibly exciting for him.

“It’s exciting for parents to see their kids in that environment. For many parents, they may never have seen something like this.”

Because the buddies are on the field, he said, “You can just sit on the bench and cheer.”

 

New Challenger baseball player Mazy Landucci, 13, centre, of Picton smiles while surrounded by family during the Field of Ability festivities Saturday, June 15, 2019 in Belleville, Ont. From left are sister Ember Landucci, grandfather Gord Burns, mother Misu Burns and sister Phoebe Landucci. Luke Hendry/Belleville Intelligencer/Postmedia Network Luke Hendry / Luke Hendry/The Intelligencer

Picton’s Mazy Landucci, 13, played Thursday evening in her first exhibition game. She’s a fan of the Jays but had never played baseball – but she liked it.

“It was great. It was so fun,” said her mother, Misu Burns.

She said their family of five began adaptive skiing with the Ontario Track 3 Ski Association and is eager to see Mazy play baseball.

“We’re all going as a family.

“We’ve been involved for, like, two days and I’m already feeling emotional about it.”

Newman-Chesher said the field will be larger than the smaller-scale one first planned.

“Now it’s going to be a regular-sized softball field.”

“Anybody can rent it out and use it.”

However, she said, it will be used primarily for Challenger and for tee-ball. Its rubberized surface will likely be installed in the spring and won’t be suitable for some sports.

She marveled at the speed with which the campaign concluded. It took about a year.

“We thought we’d be years doing this, she said.

Local municipalities, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Jays Care Foundation were among the donors to the estimated $1.5-million project.

All required funds have been raised, said Newman-Chesher, but the previously-scheduled Swing for the Kids golf tournament will proceed. It’s July 13 at Trillium Wood Golf Club at Highway 37 and Harmony Road just north of Belleville.

Details of the project and golf tournament are at fieldofability.com.

Nicholas Rogers of Stirling flips over brave yet screaming volunteers Saturday, June 15, 2019 in Belleville, Ont. He performed with the Pegasus Cheer Athletes at the Field of Ability event. Luke Hendry/Belleville Intelligencer/Postmedia Network

Rob Waite performs with members of All Access Music Saturday, June 15, 2019 in Belleville, Ont. Luke Hendry/Belleville Intelligencer/Postmedia Network

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