FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — One year after Hurricane Ian, the Bay Oaks Little League field reopens with donations from Major League Baseball (MLB), and with a softball legend in attendance.
It has been a year of rebuilding for the Fort Myers Beach community, but Wednesday night people from all over Southwest Florida were able to gather in a night to remember.
Jennie Finch, Softball Olympic Gold Medalist and MLB Ambassador, held a free clinic for the community on opening night. Finch told Fox 4 it is an honor to be a part of the rebuild efforts and give back to a community that has lost so much.
"Baseball aside, softball aside, they’ve experienced devastation at its finest," said Finch. "There’s just so much change going on, but just keep on keeping on.”
The MLB and Scotts Field Refurbishment Program awarded the field more than $50,000. Jeff Cogbill, Fort Myers Baseball Little League Head Coach, said the rebuild would not have been possible without the donation.
"With losing everything on the beach that we used to use for fundraisers, now we’re able to rebuild this and hopefully bring outside teams in to practice and to play,” said Cogbill.
Plus, Jeff Hauge the Director of Culture, Parks and Recreation for the Town of Fort Myers Beach said, the new field gives the community hope for the future and a place to gather.
Hauge told Fox 4, before the rebuilding of the field it was used as a debris sight after the storm and now the goal is to bring people back to the island to help the local economy.
"When they come down and they play then they go eat at a restaurant, they may shop somewhere, so our big goal is to just get people down," said Hauge
Plus, with the added star power of Finch in attendance for opening night, it brought out a large community support.
"I know what this will do for Fort Myers, for the community, and just already the smiles and the happiness that this field has brought and it's day one," said Finch.
Cogbill told Fox 4 the league has open spots available for the upcoming season. Sign-ups can be found here.