People lined up along the fence of the JD MacIntyre Memorial Field last Friday night ready to make history.
It was the first ball game in a season that had been delayed due to COVID-19 – Eastern Express versus the Mid-Isle Mustangs in the 13U Triple-A division.
And it was the first time that a ball game had been played in Cardigan after sunset.
Kris O'Brien, president of the community's minor baseball association, said that's because there was no infrastructure to host one that late. However, that’s no longer the case thanks to the recent installation of several field lights that can help grow both the sport and the community.
"The sky's the limit, right now," he said. "This is probably a 25-year dream for Cardigan."
O'Brien started advocating for field lights about 10 years ago. Many larger tournaments require ballfields to have them in order to be held there, so the Cardigan association had always been disqualified from hosting them in the past, O'Brien said.
"We've always been very restricted by not having a lit ballfield."
He approached Cardigan's community council of the time, which was on board but didn't have the funds to support the project. Once Cardigan joined Three Rivers during its amalgamation in 2018, he approached its new council.
"They supported the initiative from day one."
Together, they eventually secured the funding and got to work last fall. The lights were finally installed this spring. It was decided to put them around the smallest field so that the players on the association's softball teams, who are mostly younger, can experience playing under the lights.
Mayor Edward MacAulay of Three Rivers calls the project a major achievement. The Cardigan resident used to be the association's president, and he coached ball teams there for about 10 years.
"I have quite a connection to that field," MacAulay said.
Cardigan's ballfields met all the criteria to host tournaments on a regional and national level, which would bring more traffic to the area and boost the economy of all Three Rivers, he said.
"But we just didn't have the lights."
O'Brien thinks the economic spin-off will be massive as it's now the only lit softball field in eastern P.E.I., he said.
His only disappointment was that COVID-19 restrictions prevented them from attracting more people out to watch Cardigan's first-ever night game. Some people watched from their parked cars Friday evening while others socially-distanced around the outfield fence.
People in the area are passionate about their fields – and their ball games – often turning out by the hundreds.
"I know for a fact we could have filled the complex tonight," said O’Brien.
Daniel Brown is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government. Twitter.com/dnlbrown95