Fully-accessible baseball field coming to Warwick this spring

| 20 Feb 2018 | 05:55

Any kid with a passion to play baseball will now have the opportunity to do so, thanks to a new fully-accessible ball field being built in Warwick — the first of its kind in the Orange County area.
Daniel Fratto Memorial Field will be part of the recreation area at the former Mid-Orange Correctional facility — now a Warwick Town Park called Wickham Woodlands — and is expected to be ready this May, with a planned Grand Opening event on May 20.
The baseball field will feature a rubberized playing surface, and will hopefully increase participation in team sports, in this case baseball, by better accommodating players with greater mobility challenges.
“This will allow us a confident outreach to those children who are using walkers and wheelchairs in order to participate,” said Jan Brunkhorst, executive director of Beautiful People, the organization behind the ball field. “We didn’t have that ability to accommodate them right away, but on May 20, we sure will.”
Beautiful PeopleBeautiful People is the Orange County chapter of the 285 chapter-Miracle League, a nationally recognized adaptive sports program for children with disabilities. Each player is paired with an adult or teen “buddy” volunteer to help as needed to bat, round the bases, and field the ball.
Over 150 players in 12 teams come together with 80 to 100 volunteers on Sundays in May and June at the Town of Wallkill Little League Park. With the new field in Warwick, the athletes will now have the proper environment for them to feel safe and confident in their ability to fully participate, according to Capital Funding Chair Jeremy Havens.
The idea of constructing a field like this in Orange County has been in the works for many years, Havens said, with the organization looking into county-owned Thomas Bull Memorial Park. But for one reason or another, those other efforts fell through.
The new site at Wickham Woodlands is town-owned property and the Town of Warwick fully supported the idea. Plus, there is an existing ball field, among other existing features.
“There’s an existing pavilion, parking lot, recreational building with handicap-accessible bathrooms, a kitchen, the whole nine,” Havens said. “So it was a new and different opportunity rather than developing a piece of land from scratch that was just open field.”
When the project is complete, the field will not only be used by Beautiful People, but will be available for use by other local organizations or groups that serve the disabled population as well.
Daniel FrattoNamesake of the field, Daniel Fratto, was a 16-year-old who volunteered with Beautiful People as a game announcer, adding to the ballpark experience by calling each of the players to bat. As not only a volunteer, but as someone fighting severe immune deficiency disorder his whole life, Fratto, along with Beautiful People, was honored during the New York Yankees’ HOPE Week in 2010.
While at Yankee Stadium, Daniel was invited into the booth to announce an inning of the game that day, which included calling Derek Jeter to bat. No one before or since has done that except for the legendary Bob Sheppard.
Daniel had also taken on the task of helping fundraise for the field project, organizing his own events and campaigns which resulted in $30,000 and inspired others to coordinate their own fundraisers. Unfortunately, he succumbed to his illness in December 2012 at the age of 19 and never got to see the field built.
“In honor of his spirit and dedication and his inspiration, we thought it fitting to honor him by naming the field after him,” Havens said.
Support the Grand OpeningA Grand Opening event is scheduled for May 20 for all of athletes, families and volunteers. There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony, along with live music from Flame the Band, a band composed of members who also face physical and developmental challenges in their own lives.
There will be food trucks, vendors, as well as kids art exhibits and games for the whole family.
Those looking to support the grand opening can donate in a number of ways: by sponsoring an athlete, through event sponsorships, donating to the live music fund or contributing funds towards the batting cage. Sponsorships and donations can be made online at www.beautiful-people.us.