The reopening of the Wade Jenkins Field on Fort Myers Beach was celebrated in a grand fashion, with Softball Hall of Fame pitcher Jennie Finch leading the community in the event. The field had been badly damaged by Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Idalia, but had recently opened for baseball practice and hosted the town’s Fright Night event. However, the reopening ceremony was made even more special with the presence of Jennie Finch, who pitched for the U.S. Woman’s Softball team and won a gold medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics.
During the event, Finch showed young hitters how to handle their bats, stand in the batter’s box, and encouraged new players to run to first base. She even continued throwing until every young hitter made contact. In her speech, Finch emphasized the importance of perseverance and not giving up, stating that in baseball and softball, even a .300 hitter fails 70% of the time.
The ceremony also included a special moment when Rose Ressa, the mother of the field’s namesake, threw out the first pitch. The field was named after Ressa’s son, Wade Jenkins, who tragically died in a car crash in 1989 on his way to play a Little League baseball game. Ressa expressed her gratitude for the community’s support and said that the reopening of the field was another step towards the community’s recovery.
Patrick Vanasse, a board member of the Fort Myers Beach Little League, shared the plan to develop baseball and softball teams and increase their numbers for practices before they can play games again next year. Prior to the reopening, there were only about 15 players in the league, but they have gained several new recruits. The league also hopes to attract new members from the Fort Myers Beach Little League district, which extends a few miles off the island.
Overall, the reopening of the Wade Jenkins Field was a momentous occasion for the Fort Myers Beach community. With the help of Jennie Finch and the support of the community, the field is ready to welcome young baseball and softball players once again.