Bennett’s Creek wins Tides contest

Published 8:32 pm Monday, March 5, 2012

From left, Floyd Byrd, Melissa and Dale Fago and Frank Ittel stand on the Bennett’s Creek Little League Challenger-division field that won a makeover from the Norfolk Tides in a Facebook contest.

The Bennett’s Creek Little League on Monday was named one of three winners of an online contest to receive field makeovers from the Norfolk Tides.

Fan votes on the Tides’ Facebook page put Bennett’s Creek in third place behind Ocean View Little League in Norfolk and the Smithfield Recreation Association.

Only the top two fields were guaranteed makeovers, but Bennett’s Creek was voted in as the third field by a committee of Tides employees.

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“We’re absolutely just ecstatic,” said Frank Ittel, commissioner of baseball for the Bennett’s Creek Little League. “It’s going to mean a lot to these kids, especially the ones with disabilities.”

The field Bennett’s Creek entered into the contest is used by its Challenger division, which includes children with a variety of physical disabilities. The current condition of the field and dugouts hampers the children who are trying to play, Ittel said.

“The field right now does not drain properly at all,” he said. “It’s just accessibility for the kids in the wheelchairs and the walkers. The chairs get stuck in the dugouts. It’s an absolute nightmare.”

Ittel said the league also hopes to put in handicapped restrooms for the Challenger field — right now, all they have are portable toilets. The organization also needs improved parking.

“It’s a whole combination of projects,” he said.

The league will dedicate the Challenger field to Tyler Fago, who played in the Challenger division despite being blind, using a wheelchair and having seizure disorders. He died at the age of 10.

“He loved the interaction with other people,” his father, Dale Fago, said last week.

Ittel thanked the entire community for pitching in and pushing Bennett’s Creek to third place out of the 20 leagues participating.

“Apparently, it was quite a dogfight to the end,” he said. “It’s a huge accomplishment for the organization and a tribute to the community.”

Ittel said he expects representatives from the Tides to visit the field for an evaluation this week.

“I still can’t believe we won,” he said. “I’m just tickled to death.”

In five days of online voting, the 20 fields nominated for the contest received a total of 27,685 “likes,” which constituted a vote in the contest. The three winning fields had nearly half the votes combined.

“Our organization is thrilled by the overwhelming support this contest has received,” Tides General Manager Joe Gregory said. “The number of votes cast really shines a light onto how important youth baseball is to families in the Hampton Roads community, and we can’t wait to get started.”