A diamond in the rough: Blue Jays help Gagetown with ball-field makeover
Village on St. John River is a step closer to getting its very own field of dreams
Alyssa Shupe is a diehard Red Sox fan and, often as possible, cheers on her team at Boston's Fenway Park. But her loyalty could be slipping after the Toronto Blue Jays gave the village a thrilling prize: money for a ball field.
When Shupe started her job as the director of the Gagetown and District Recreation Council four years ago, it didn't take the ball player long to notice the village had a soccer field — and something that resembled a baseball field covered in weeds.
- Strike-throwing Saint John native joins Blue Jays for spring training
- Former N.B. major leaguer named president of Baseball Canada
- Moncton opens first accessible baseball park
"There's no fence in the outfield when we hit a home run," the 27-year-old said Thursday. "So we have to go find the ball. Sometimes we don't find it."
She and others got to work in the village, which is still struggling with the blow delivered by the provincial government's removal of the ferry the villagers depended on.
Shupe's group looked to Ontario.
After a lengthy proposal, dozens of emails, and conference calls, Shupe finally learned that Gagetown was chosen for a grant from the Blue Jays Care Foundation, an infrastructure program dedicated to developing the life skills and physical activity of youth.
"This really does mean from start to finish a brand new ball field," said Shupe, who also helps coach the kindergarten to Grade 8 softball team in the area.
A field of dreams
In the meantime, Shupe — along with a group of volunteers and village staff — has weeded, painted baselines and organized softball teams for the local community over the past few years.
She's even hired a local farmer to till the land every two years.
My dad brainwashed me from day one.-Alyssa Shupe , baseball player
"I'm very passionate about softball, about baseball," said Shupe, who is also the executive director of Softball New Brunswick and plays for an Atlantic team.
Earlier this week, she gathered residents together at the Royal Canadian Legion, where she set up a big projector to livestream a Blues Jays double header.
Between games, the team announced this year's 16 recipients of Jays Care grants. The room burst into loud cheers.
"Some of the community members had no idea," she said. "They were just showing up for a community celebration of some sort, and 'big news could come our way.'
"Lo and behold, it came our way."
Shupe's sister and father were there to cheer her on, and her mom was at home, eagerly updating her Facebook account to celebrate the news.
Sport is 'in her blood'
When it comes to sports, the Nova Scotia-born Shupe said, her father, Duncan Blewer, is her biggest role model.
"My dad brainwashed me from day one. I started out having it kind of in my blood."
With a wealth of knowledge about sports, her father was an inspiration to Shupe growing up in New Waterford. She and her four siblings played softball, basketball, hockey and rugby.
"Baseball stuck," she said.
Gagetown will get $10,000 from the Jays, along with some shirts. The money will go to a new fence and bleachers.
"This grant will go a long way with the development of a new ball field in the village of Gagetown," said Mayor Mike Blaney.
"This wonderful achievement would not have occurred without the leadership of Alyssa Shupe."
Shupe is hoping the new and improved ball field will be ready by the end of the summer.
She's looking forward to the day villagers can play ball in the new space.
"I couldn't have asked for anything more," she said. "This means the world to me."
With files from Information Morning Fredericton