MELBOURNE, Fla., Jan. 5, 2016 — United States Specialty Sports Association officials today joined Florida Governor Rick Scott and other regional political and civic leaders at the official opening of the Space Coast Field of Dreams Sports Complex in Brevard County.
The nation’s largest multi-sport organization donated a digital scoreboard that should be installed at the baseball field in early February.
“USSSA is proud to support the Field of Dreams all-access sports complex that will provide enjoyment for special needs athletes and their families throughout the region,” said USSSA Chairman of the Board/CEO Don DeDonatis, who attended the grand opening with his Board of Directors.
Field of Dreams is a five-acre, $5.2 million multi-sport park for children and adults with disabilities that includes baseball and soccer fields, a basketball court, and a disability-friendly playground. It was created over the past dozen years through the joint efforts of the Florida Legislature, Brevard County, the city of West Melbourne, and various donors and volunteers. The groundbreaking took place in November 2014. In November 2015, a small army of volunteers constructed the Field of Dreams playground by working more than 1,400 labor shifts during a five-day “Community Build.”
Several hundred community members came out to watch the opening ceremonies, filling the parking lot to capacity with their vehicles. Many attendees lined the outfield fence to catch the action.
After a welcome by Brevard County Commissioner Robin Fisher and remarks by other officials, including Governor Scott, the ceremonies were highlighted by a celebratory baseball game. DeDonatis, along with other state and local dignitaries and supporters, served as buddies to players with disabilities during a ceremonial one-inning game.
Two starting lineups of players and their helpers filled the dugouts. Field of Dreams Founder and President Jim Tapp tossed two opening first pitches to Governor Scott, who was wearing a catcher’s mitt, to kick off the action.
The game was an offensive barrage. Helpers raced around the bases assisting their respective players amid an onslaught of 18 consecutive home runs, wrapping up the inaugural inning with the game finishing in a 9-9 stalemate.
Commissioner Fisher, who spearheaded an effort two years ago to secure state funding – which, along with private donations, paid for the modern, multi-million dollar park – applauded USSSA for making a “proactive effort to build relationships in Brevard County.”
Currently located in Kissimmee, the Association will be relocating its National Headquarters to Space Coast Stadium in Brevard County – possibly as early as this fall.
“After meeting with and getting to know Don DeDonatis and his team during negotiations for the transition of USSSA to Space Coast Stadium, it was easy to see the company culture and the sincere desire to get immersed in our community,” said Fisher.
“Because of his expertise in organized sports, I shared the Field of Dreams project with Don to get his thoughts on operations. I didn’t even have to ask for anything, Don said, ‘We want to be part of that.’
“Don knows that in youth baseball, one of the most thrilling aspects is seeing your picture on the giant scoreboard and hearing your name over the loud speaker as you are called up to bat,” added Fisher. “Don wanted these special kids to have that same experience and he offered to donate a state of the art scoreboard. This is definitely something that was not in our budget, but makes such a huge impact on the playing experience for each of these kids.
“But Don didn’t stop there,” continued Fisher. “He also offered to partner with us to continue to provide player jerseys and playing equipment, like bats, balls, and gloves. We received our first shipment and I wasn’t at all surprised to see the USSSA logo cleverly worked into the Field of Dreams logo. I took that as an indication of a long and beautiful future together.”
“It’s exciting to support life-changing projects like the Field of Dreams,” said USSSA’s Don DeDonatis. “The complex is an inspiring place that will help youth and adults with disabilities to enjoy the sports that our organization loves like baseball, basketball and soccer. It was a wonderful experience for our Board of Directors to join Governor Scott and other leaders from the community to officially open the field of Dreams complex, where special needs children and adults can live their dreams.”