Ocracoke youngsters will soon have a real baseball field
…WITH SLIDE SHOW
By CONNIE LEINBACH
Ocracoke students will have a real baseball field by the end of the summer.
field, which will be called Ocracoke Community Park, is at the end of
Maurice Ballance Road and is being prepared on a 3.8-acre tract
purchased from Dal and Darren Burrus.
“If you wanted to play
flag football, you had to find a drain field,” said Bob Chestnut,
president of the Ocracoke Youth Center, Inc., the nonprofit
organization for the field, about the scarcity of land on the island.
group has closed on the contract and is awaiting the receipt of a
stormwater permit, having already gotten two other permits, he
said. Payment on the contract does not begin until the group
receives all of its permits.
“It’s all about keeping the kids as
busy as possible,” Chestnut said recently about the benefits of more
team sports for the island.
In the meantime, the group just
kicked off a two-year capital campaign to raise the $2.2 million to
finance preparing the land and building the field, which also may be
used for soccer and even lacrosse and eight-man football.
young people on the island told me they’d be interested in starting a
kick-ball league when this gets built,” Chestnut said.
two-story activity center also is proposed eventually for the site and,
possibly, a walking trail to Loop Shack Hill, which starts just north
of the village along Highway 12.
“We are the only small town in
the state without a ball field,” said County Manager Bill Rich, who
helped with this project before becoming the county manager, about the
effort. Rich will still be able to help with his fundraising
efforts for the field.
The dream of having a baseball field has
been long held by some Ocracokers, especially Vince O’Neal, who is a
passionate fan of the sport and is the manager of the team.
didn’t have enough kids on the island to play when I was a kid,” he
said recently. A 1978 graduate of the Ocracoke School, O’Neal had five
kids in his class.
“The class behind me had two,” he added. “Now
there are enough kids to field teams. It’s exciting to see these kids
play something we wanted to play while growing up. It’s a dream come
That’s because the Ocracoke School, which includes pre-K
through 12th grade, now has156 students, the highest it’s ever been,
said Lisa Caswell, Ocracoke School secretary.
“The school population has bloomed,” O’Neal said.
As a youngster, O’Neal wanted badly to play real baseball.
of the basic necessities of life is to be able to play baseball,”
O’Neal continued about America’s sport. “To see these kids with
uniforms on their backs is great. These kids deserve that.”
push to have a Little League team on Ocracoke began more than two years
ago when, at the behest of some parents, former Youth Center director
Karen Lovejoy started a baseball program to teach basic skills.
In 2011, Lovejoy made contact with the Hatteras Island Babe Ruth Little
League and they agreed to let an Ocracoke team join the league.
quickly formed a team of 15 boys ages 10 to 12 who became part of the
Cal Ripken Division. The Raptors, the 10th-12th graders who practiced
on islander Keith McDermott’s front yard, ended their inaugural season
in 2011, finishing second.
This year, the Raptors and a new
middle-school team, the Dolphins, the Blue Claw team for 7- to
9-year-olds, and a newly formed T-ball team for kids in pre-K to first
grade are in the midst of their seasons. There are at least 80
kids playing baseball this year, O’Neal said.
“Within two years,
as the middle school kids get older, we want to have a varsity team and
next year have a girls’ softball team,” O’Neal said.
Organizers also hope to add a jogging track around the ball field, noted Garrick Kalna, who designed the field.
to locals’ concerns about bright lights on the field, the design
materials show that the lighting will be low impact and will coincide
with the Ocracoke noise ordinance, which directs outdoor music to stop
at 10 p.m.
The Ocracoke Youth Center, which offered
after-school activities primarily for younger kids, was looking for a
new direction after the Ocracoke School received a federal 21st Century
after-school program grant in 2011 that involved most all the school
children on the island. As a result, the Youth Center changed its focus
to outdoor recreation and the community park filled that niche.
needed a nonprofit and we were looking for a renewed focus,” Chestnut
explained about the collaboration building the ball field. “This is an
At this point, organizers have raised $250,000 in cash pledges and $71,000 in in-kind pledges toward their goal, Kalna said.
the benefits to the community, according to the group’s promotional
materials, is it will help reduce worker absenteeism due to off-island
travel time, as well as fuel expenses for practice and games and
promoting tourism with tournaments.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW SLIDE SHOW