WALKER — A new and innovative baseball venue, named “Challenger’s Field,” is being planned in Walker for special needs children from throughout Livingston and neighboring parishes.
Walker Mayor Rick Ramsey said the city is trying to raise about $300,000 to build a baseball field suitable for mentally and physically disabled children in the area. Ramsey said about 60 special-needs children from a four- or five-parish area are playing baseball in Walker in a league that has been in existence for four years.
While the special needs children are able to play on a conventional field, Ramsey said the need exists to create a field that is especially catered to the needs of the mentally and physically disabled.
The city already raised $30,000 from area businesses, and Walker has applied for grants through several foundations connected to Major League Baseball.
Ramsey said the total cost of field will be about $421,000. The city has been awarded $220,000 by the Cal Ripken Foundation, which is named in honor of Cal Ripken Jr., the legendary infielder for the Baltimore Orioles who set a record for playing in the most consecutive games of any player in professional baseball.
The field, which will be located in Sydney Hutchinson Park, will be of a reduced size with the center field fence between 90-100 feet from home plate. Shock absorbent turf will cover the field. Fences and dugout areas will be encased in protective covers, and special bases will be used to accommodate the needs of the athletes who will play there.
“The need for this field has been evident for some time. Special needs children deserve this facility. It’s enlightening to watch these kids play ball because they want to win. Playing ball gives these kids the opportunity to do something that is good for them and that they thoroughly enjoy. They have the opportunity to enjoy healthy exercise out in the fresh air. It’s something we need to do.” Ramsey said.
To help raise money for Challenger’s Field, a major fundraiser is scheduled for Jan. 18 at the North Park Gym. The event, Nashville Unplugged, will include music from a variety of Nashville country stars in addition to cameo appearances from local MLB greats and other celebrities from the area. The fundraiser is sponsored by the Pilot Club of Denham Springs, the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce and the City of Walker.
Ramsey has mailed out a letter to community residents asking for help with Nashville Unplugged. Ramsey said that for $1,000, a patron will be given 10 tickets that will allow 10 guests access to an evening of country music, a buffet from a local restaurant, alcohol and the opportunity to mingle with local stars and celebrities. The event is being planned by Scott Innes in collaboration with the sponsors.
The mayor said that a contribution to a government municipality qualifies as a tax deductible contribution.
In discussing the importance of building Challenger’s Field, Ramsey tells the story of an autistic boy, Jeremiah Wilson, who spoke his first words on a baseball diamond at the age of 7. He told his coach he wanted to bat. Ramsey said Jeremiah’s mother, Monique, said she cried at that moment, which she described as “joyful.”
Ramsey said that if all goes well, the field should be completed before the end of next year.
For tickets to the event, call (225) 665-4356.