“Sunny” Jim Little League Park has been a landmark and a “field of dreams” for kids and families since 1950. The park was named after “Sunny” Jim Walters- who was refered to as the father of youth baseball in Joplin, because he knew “if you build it, they will come”. So, he, and former major leaguer Ferrell “Andy” Anderson were both instrumental in purchasing the property to build the field that we now know as ”Sunny” Jim Park.
However, after the deadly tornado on May 22nd, “Sunny” Jim Park didn’t look so “Sunny” anymore. In fact, it is estimated that the field suffered damages totaling over $500,000. The field itself was torn up and rubble from the tornado covered the entire park, the restrooms and consessions were heavily damaged, the fences were blown down and the bleachers were demolished.
On Tuesday, July 12th, Operation Blessing teamed up with Home Depot to make Little League dreams come true again. They began the rebuilding process along with 200 volunteers. Work crews cleared debris, fixed fences, removed broken poles, and reconstructed an entire outfield wall.
The goal is to have the park completely finished by the local baseball league’s season closing ceremonies later this month.
Certainly with a disaster this big, establishing some semblance of normalcy for children is important. And in the town
of Joplin, Missouri, normalcy is baseball. Rebuilding the fields is important to the families of Joplin, because, for many, it’s where fathers and grandfather’s played ball.
These volunteers are working hard not just to reconstruct a field, they are rebuilding dreams.
“The people of Joplin will come. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace theylack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come. The one constant through all the years, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come. People will most definitely come.” -adapted from Field of Dreams
*If you would like to contribute to Joplin South Little League’s rebuilding efforts, you can mail a check to JSLL, PO Box 4114, Joplin, MO 64803. Please make the check out to Joplin South Little League and put “Sunny Jim Park Disaster Fund” in the memo.