Text and photos by Connie Leinbach
Vince O’Neal began to choke up as he announced the dedication of the long-awaited baseball field at Community Park Saturday.
“Those of us who were born and raised here, this is a day we thought we’d never see,” he said in front of a large crowd of islanders from both Ocracoke and Hatteras for the first league games of the season.
He had to gather himself before continuing.
“It will be a place to congregate and recreate,” O’Neal continued. “We envision a lot more—soccer, softball, a youth center and walking trails.”
Instead of a ribbon, there was a ceremonial cake replicating the new baseball diamond, baked and decorated the day before by Melinda and David Scott Esham whose two boys play on teams.
“It took me three hours to decorate,” David Scott said about the hundreds of individual icing daubs in green, blue, brown, white and red. He also is on the board of directors and coaches the teams.
“Play ball!” O’Neal announced after the cake was cut.
The new ball field was finished a few weeks ago after four years in the making, and games have begun.
On Saturday, the Blue Claws and the Raptors, played Hatteras teams, the Mets, an all-girls team, and the Hot Rods. All are in the Tarheel Little League this year.
Ocracoke teams were victorious with the Blue Claws beating the Mets 15-0, and the Raptors beating the Hot Rods 3-2 in a walk-off.
“I’m blown away being out here with all of the teams,” said Brian Samick, another member of the board, as he dished out cake to the fans.
All of the Ocracoke teams were on board for the official dedication, though only the younger players had games on Saturday.
“You can’t beat that,” exclaimed Gary Davis as he watched Damon Esham, 9, make a 4-run infield home run against the Mets. “With the bases loaded.”
The all-girls team of 7 to 9-year-olds is in its second year, said, Katie O’Neal of Hatteras as she watched her daughter Abby, a third-grader.
“There were so many girls trying out for baseball, we decided to form a team,” she said. However, she’s not sure if the team will play next year as more of the 15 on the team will move up, leaving only about five players left.
According to the park’s printed materials, $1.43 million has been raised toward a $2.2 million goal, with $773,000 needed to fully fund the completion of the park.