Community banding together to make baseball field accessible for children with special needs

Community banding together to make baseball field accessible for children with special needs
The "Field of Dreams" team, which is part of the leadership program, received a $150,000 grant that will go toward converting the field.

GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - A team of residents in Ascension Parish are working to make a baseball field accessible to everyone in the community.

The Leadership Ascension team, which is comprised of community members, has so far raised $250,000 to convert the baseball field on Irma Boulevard into an ADA-compliant facility.

The field would be a first for the parish. The next closest wheelchair accessible fields are in Walker and Baton Rouge. Converting the field would satisfy an unfilled need in the community, according to Jackie Tisdell, who is a mentor for the leadership team. Currently, Ascension Parish schools serves about 2,500 students with special needs.

Having the converted field would provide another venue to host Miracle League games, instead of having teams commute to fields outside of the parish.

Rendering of converted baseball field (Source: Jackie Tisdell)
Rendering of converted baseball field (Source: Jackie Tisdell)

The field is conveniently located across the street from East Ascension High School.

Since October 2018, the team has been gathering funds for the project. On Tuesday May 14, the project received $150,000 through the Cal Ripkin, Sr. Foundation, according to Tisdell. The foundation builds and helps convert baseball fields throughout the United States.

In the next two weeks, the foundation’s engineering firm will go out to inspect the field in Gonzales. Tisdell isn’t sure how much it will cost to convert the field, and will not know until the engineering firm provides an estimate.

Converting the field would include bringing in the fence to decrease the size of the field. This would make the field more of the size of a traditional t-ball field. The grass would be replaced with a ADA-compliant turf that would allow wheelchairs on the field. Enlarging the dugouts and surfacing the complex with concrete and brick would also be part of the conversion project.

The team is selling bricks for $75 as part of the fundraiser.

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