The next step in making Toms River’s “Field of Dreams” come to fruition occurred this week, when comments began being accepted to support the township’s application to turn 3.4 acres of Bey Lea Park into a baseball complex that can accommodate disabled youngsters.
The idea for the project came from a township resident whose young son suffered a brain injury in a car accident. His quest to build the Field of Dreams has garnered support from the Lakewood BlueClaws as well as New York Mets third baseman Todd Frazier, who is from Toms River.
An initial idea was to build the park at Silver Bay Elementary School, but the township decided to request the change in use of the portion of Bey Lea Park – located on North Bay Avenue – from the state. In order to turn land designated as open space into an active park, permission must be grated by the Department of Environmental Protection. The public comment period is the first step. After the March 1 commenting deadline, the township will make a formal application that the state can choose to approve or deny.
The proposed park would provide a baseball field, miniature golf area and a fully handicap-accessible playground. The baseball league would consist of shorter games than traditional youth leagues, with activities other than baseball accessible to the children on the same site.
“If the township of Toms River can come together, we’ll have a field we can remember,” said Christian Kane, a Toms River resident and father of six children who is spearheading the project.
Kane’s youngest son suffered injuries in a car accident when he was just a year old, but loves baseball, his father said. The issue is that no truly handicap-accessible field exists in Toms River, and children with disabilities often cannot play full seven or nine inning games.
“There are a lot of kids out there with special needs, and I want them to have the experience of cracking the bat, feeling the wind with their uniform on breeze through their bodies on the field of baseball,” Frazier said. “I think there is nothing better in the world than to see you son or daughter play this game.”
For those who did not make the hearing this week, comments about the proposal can be mailed to the Toms River Municipal Clerk, 33 Washington Street, Toms River, New Jersey, 08753 and a copy of any comments to the New Jersey Department of Environmenal Protection, Green Acres Program, Bureau of Legal Services and Stewardship, Mail Code 501-01, 501 East State Street, PO Box 420, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0420.