“I really didn’t think we’d ever get a field,” Munroe said, standing at the groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday where the field is to be built, near the city’s softball fields on Recreation Drive.
Munroe started “A League of Our Own” in 2011 to give developmentally and physically challenged children a chance to play baseball. Pilkington, who has autism, was her inspiration, she said.
Since then, the league’s 60-or-so players held games at the city’s sports complex, but the rubberized turf and handicapped-accessible concession stands and restrooms at the new field are being designed to make baseball easier for players and their families. Munroe expects the new field will draw more players in the coming seasons.
There are similar leagues in Cullman, Gardendale, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Huntsville, Opelika, Moody and Dothan.
Alton Craft, Oxford’s finance director, said the project will cost between $300,000 and $350,000. McCartney Construction has agreed to pave the parking lot for the field at no cost, Craft said, and Taylor Corporation also will help with the build.
The city is applying for a $50,000 grant through the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help pay for lighting and other equipment for the field, Craft said.
The largest donation to the project comes from Eastman, new owners of the former Solutia chemical plant in Anniston. The company has agreed to pay $250,000 toward the project, said Gayle Macolly, manager of remedial projects for Eastman.
“It’s important to us,” Macolly said. “When it comes to the kids, they’re just so excited. It’s pure joy, and that’s what makes it worth it.”
Macolly said that weather permitting, workers should complete the field by mid-March.
Oxford Mayor Leon Smith, standing among city officials and representatives from Eastman on Tuesday morning, said the project is one he’s particularly proud of.
“It means a lot to the city of Oxford and to the children,” Smith said.
Munroe said she often drove by the site, selected months ago, on her way to work to see if work on the field had started. Now that the ceremony has taken place, it has to, she said.
“I want to thank the city, the mayor and Eastman for coming together and offering these kids this,” Munroe said. “Because they need this. These kids and their families have to fight so much, every day.”
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.