FORD HEIGHTS, Ill. — Some are calling it a real life “Field of Dreams.”
For the first time ever, the south suburban community of Ford Heights is able to root for the home team.
After years of wandering from city to suburbs in the search of playing fields, Little League Baseball players in Ford Heights finally have a field of their own.
A Little League Baseball field is a staple of almost every American Town. But Ford Heights, with a population just over 2700, is known for what it has — high unemployment, poverty and crime — and what it didn’t have: a baseball field.
Which is why when the umpire barked “play ball” Friday, to officially open Excell Walker Field, 14-year-old Dominique Curry was nearly speechless.
“It’s hard to describe because it’s unbelievable,” said Curry.
Until Friday, his hometown field was an open lot.
“It was like rock that you had to slide on, so imagine sliding on literally rock and sliding on this – it’s a big difference,” said Curry.
It would have never happened without George Green, known as “Coach Kirby” the father of Ford Heights baseball.
He wanted to teach the kids the game, the lessons of patience and payoff in baseball.
For years he would load up Ford Heights Little Leaguers in his SUV and take them to other communities driving some 60 miles a week just to see a field.
“What else were you going to do? To do nothing was not an option,” said Green.
He enlisted the help of Sheriff Tom Dart, business leaders and the cubs and major league pitcher, Jason Hammel.
“What Coach Kirb did was gather the kids, put them in his own car and kind of ‘bus drivered’ them around to all the fields in the surrounding areas to get them involved in little league and that really struck a chord with me,” said Hammel.
“Doing nothing was what got the village in the condition it was in, so we had to do something to change the kids thought process,” said Green.
They came together and built the brand new Excell Walker Field, the first baseball field in Ford Heights history.
“Something you can call your own, something positive when a lot of negative things are being put out there,” said April Haymond, a mother.
Haymond’s son plays on the Ford Heights team and says the game teaches so much.
“They learn team building, respect, being a part of something, being committed,” said Haymond.
But for the kids, on this day, for the first time in their hometown, the field itself was a lesson.
“When everybody works together, you can do things like this,” said Curry.
MLB’s Baseball Tomorrow fund donated $150,000 and Cubs charities donated almost $50,000. There were a number of volunteers who all helped build the field, and judging from the kids’ reaction, it was a hit.