Roddy Gould spent countless hours of his youth at the Scotchfort ballfield, watching and playing sports.
Now he wants the next generation to be able to have the same opportunities.
The dream got one step closer Sunday with the announcement that the Abegweit First Nation is receiving $70,000 from the Jays Care Foundation’s field of dreams program to revitalize the ball field.
The announcement was made on national TV during the pre-game show for the Toronto Blue Jays-Tampa Bay Rays contest. The Abegweit First Nation Mi’kmaq Wellness Centre was packed as community members, many sporting Jays jerseys, shirts, hats and other memorabilia, came to hear what the special announcement was.
“It’s amazing. I’ve never felt something like this in my life. It’s terrific,” Gould said. “I grew up on that ballfield. To have it revamped and restored is amazing.”
Gould works for the band and was attending an emergency management conference with Olive Crane, the band’s director of community economic development, when someone mentioned the field of dreams program. But the duo didn’t have much time as the application deadline was looming.
“Olive and I put everything on hold and just went after this,” Gould said.
The field, once a beehive of activity, is in need of some attention.
It is going to be levelled and drainage added to make it safe for games to be played.
“As you can see looking at the old field, it needs the work,” said Colby MacKinnon, who lives a stone’s throw away from the field. “A new field will mean a lot for the kids growing up and the adults who played here when they were kids, so it’s great.”
Gould said he looks around the community and sees a lot of people out biking but noted there aren’t too many means of physical activity.
“Kids today are just stuck behind a computer or (video) games,” he said.
With the ballfield brought back to its former glory days, it is hoped it can rekindle the love for the sport in the next generation.
“It’s their ballfield. I hope they come out and use it,” Gould said.
“If we can get some after-school program going on at the ballfield I think it would be tremendous for the community.”
MacKinnon is a longtime Blue Jays fan who was pleased to see the club give back. He has watched similar announcements in the past, but Sunday’s announcement hit much closer to home.
“You see that kind of stuff on TV and you don't expect it to be part of your day,” he said.
Gould was appreciative of the Jays Care Foundation’s support.
“The foundation – we couldn’t do it without them.”
Abegweit First Nation was one of 15 projects to be funded this year. Together, they totalled $1.3 million.
“We are very impressed with the diverse group of organizations receiving funding through our Jays Care field of dreams grants this year,” said foundation executive director Robert Witchel. “With recipients spanning the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific to Baffin Bay in the Arctic Circle, these investments move us one step closer to our goal of a level playing field for all Canadian children and youth.”
During the past five years, the foundation has committed nearly $8 million to 66 infrastructure projects across the country.
Construction in Scotchfort is expected to start this summer and while timelines have not been firmed up, Gould hopes things are done the fall. Regardless when it is complete, the impact of the work will be felt for years.
“My whole family is going to there watching that first pitch come in – that grand opening. When that pitch gets thrown it’s going to be game on.”