Published 10:37 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2012
By Titus Mohler
If they can get enough support for their cause, members of the Bennett’s Creek Little League could get the field of their dreams this spring.
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The league recently entered a contest put on by the Norfolk Tides Baseball Club called Youth Baseball Makeover.
The contest works like this: Different little leagues from around Hampton Roads submit a photo of one of their fields that needs to be refurbished. The photos are listed on the Norfolk Tides Baseball Club Facebook page. Whichever individual photo has the most “likes” by 4 p.m. Friday will win funding for a makeover from the Tides.
Twenty fields have been entered into the contest, and many votes have already rolled in from Facebook users who have looked up the page.
To compete in a contest like this, going up against much bigger leagues, it takes something special to set a field apart.
“We turn nobody away,” BCLL Commissioner Frank Ittel said. “Whether you’re healthy or not healthy or you’ve got [a] disability or not, it doesn’t matter. We treat all the kids the same.”
If families cannot afford to sign their kids up for the BCLL, the league will pay the fee for them. Accommodations made for disabled children are also remarkable.
The field the BCLL is trying to refurbish is for its Challenger league and is used by children with disabilities. Ittel gave special credit to BCLL President and head of the Challenger league Floyd Byrd for setting it up.
“[Floyd] went out on his own and raised money through sponsorship, through friends, through corporate, and had all these dugouts re-done so you could get a wheelchair in there,” Ittel said. “It’s that kind of thing that makes Bennett’s Creek very special.”
The community is invested in the league, but its small size means financial help is key. Though improvements have been made, the BCLL hopes to win the Tides contest, because the Challenger field needs many more updates.
Paved and leveled surfaces are needed to allow for easy field access, and the dugouts still need further rebuilding to allow more room for wheelchairs inside. Refurbished bleachers and a permanent restroom facility that meets the needs of the disabled children are also on the list.
Tyler Fago, a disabled boy who played in the league’s Challenger division, was one of the young people whose lives were improved by being able to participate in the league.
“He loved the interaction with other people, and that was his main thing,” Tyler’s father Dale Fago said. “Being confined to a wheelchair, he was blind, [he had] seizure disorders, all kinds of different disabilities that he had, but his big thing was being around other people. When he was out [at the field], he was always happy.”
Tyler died at the age of 10. More than 1,200 people attended his memorial service.
“To see … the amount of support we got at the memorial service — part of the group that came through was Tyler’s Challenger buddies, which was really awesome to see — blew our minds,” his father said.
The BCLL will designate the Challenger field in Tyler’s honor.
To vote for the field on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/norfolktides and look for the “Youth Baseball Makeover” link. Then be sure to “like” the specific photo for the Bennett’s Creek Little League, not the album.