If the names Roberto Alomar, Jesse Barfield and Duane Ward are familiar to you, then it's a pretty good chance you're a longtime Blue Jays fan.
If that's the case, you may be interested to know the three Jays alumni are in Greater Sudbury right now. They are here for the Blue Jays Baseball Academy's Honda Super Camps program, and are leading dozens of local young baseball players to teach them the skills and techniques fundamental to the game.
It was perfect timing, as today also marked the unveiling of the city's newest fully accessible baseball field at the Terry Sports Complex. Through the Jays Care's Field of Dreams program, a $150,000 grant was awarded to build the new field using artificial turf previously used at Rogers Centre.
The field is being put to good use as the venue for the Super Camps, and it also set the scene for the launch of the Jays Care's Challenger Baseball program in Sudbury, which is specifically designed for children and youth living with physical and/or cognitive disabilities.
Robert Witchel, executive director, Jays Care Foundation, said the Blue Jays feel it is very important as Canada's team to give back to communities, not just in Toronto, but across the country. It took a lot of partners to make it happen, he said.
“We were struck by the application for a few reasons,” said Witchel. “First was the opportunity to put a turf field in here. In Canada, our climate isn't as suitable to year-round baseball as many other places on this continent, so we are thrilled to have a field where you can start earlier in the year and run later into the season.”
The fact it's a fully accessible field was also an important factor in giving the thumbs up to the funding. The foundation was excited to be able to offer its Challenger Program at the new facility, Witchel said.
It was the Belli Foundation and the City of Greater Sudbury that submitted an application to the Jays Care Foundation for funding, bringing the first turfed field to the community.
Whether it's the Challenger Program or the other clinics, it's about teaching the kids to have fun and to be good sports, said Barfield, taking a short break from playing with participants of both the Challenger Program and the Super Camps.
“Baseball transcends life,” he said. “There are so many lessons you learn on the field you can use off the field.”
In baseball, more often than not, it's about tackling an obstacle one day, then turning the page, and tackling another obstacle the next day, he said.
“It's the same thing in life, especially for a lot of these kids. They get up, the do their best, and it's the same every day.”
Barfield said he's been participating in the Super Camps for about eight years.
“I love it,” he said. “What the Jays Care Foundation did for the City of Greater Sudbury is great. We're all here to support it.”