Grand reopening of Bay Oaks Ballpark in Fort Myers Beach

Author: Sylvie Sparks Writer: Rachel Murphy
Photographer: McChesney Hughes
Published: Updated:

Ball players young and old were out in full force at the grand re-opening of the Bay Oaks Ballfield in Fort Myers Beach.

Jeff Hauge, director of Fort Myers Beach Cultural, Parks and Recreation told WINK News that Tuesday is the first of many celebrations for the town’s recovery from Hurricane Ian.

“It’s just a shimmer of hope. You can probably hear the helicopter overhead. That’s been life for the last year. It’s just a little shimmer of hope,” said Hauge.

Hurricane Ian completely wiped out the field. Emergency Management even used it as a debris site after the storm.

Bay Oaks Ballfield after Hurricane Ian (CREDIT: WINK News)

A $50,000 grant from Major League Baseball and Scotts along with hard work from community members brought back the field. Hundreds of fields applied for the grant and Bay Oaks Ballpark is one of only three that were chosen.

“What came through so clearly is the sense of community in Fort Myers,” said Matt Groves, Assistant Brand Manager for Scotts Miracle-Gro. “They’ve been through so much over the last year because of the hurricane. It’s an honor to get to contribute to their rebuild efforts so that we can get the youth back on the field.”

Olympian and National Softball Hall of Fame Inductee Jennie Finch was on the committee that chose who received the grants. The softball legend started playing when she was only five years old.

During Tuesday’s celebration, she said she knows how important a ball field is to a young athlete, “I know first hand what a field can do,” said Finch. “It can change a community. It can change a life. It changed my life. So to see the community come out. There are so many people here in celebration of this field. I just know that it’s going to touch so many lives for many years to come.”

The rebuild wasn’t without its obstacles. The grand re-opening was postponed after Hurricane Idalia flooded the field in August.

Little Leaguer Gage Scasny said he’s thrilled to finally get back on the diamond, “You get to meet so many people, make new friends and it’s really an experience,” said Scasny.

Hauge informed WINK News that the town plans to host Tee Ball at the field in order to get younger kids interested in playing Little League. That way the number of players increase on the island when they’re older.

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