The ball fields in Dayton were buzzing with activity on Saturday, a sign that life is slowly getting back to normal following the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the children and families that make up the Dayton Youth Sports Association, it was also a time to celebrate the completion of recent renovations to the ball fields and to pay tribute to one of the organization’s leaders and supporters.
“As most of you know, today is a special day for us as we kick off our first baseball/softball season without a particular individual – Jesse Woods. He was the glue of this organization for many years. As many of you have noticed, we are on the Jesse Woods Field this morning for opening ceremonies,” said DYSA President Haden Gutierrez to the hundreds of people who gathered. “He tragically passed away last year on April 20 and the entire DYSA community will not be the same without him. The Board wanted to do something special to show the entire Woods family just what Jesse meant to each of us – parents and kids alike.”
With the help of master carpenter Jason Strickland, they came up with a way of recognizing Woods’ contributions to DYSA.
“Over the course of two months, Jason, his brother-in-law, Richie Ressler, and their two sons, Luke and Logan, brought our vision to life. The Jesse Woods Memorial Field wall you see in centerfield will stand for many years to come and remind each of us what Jesse Woods did for Dayton youth sports and the impact he truly made. On behalf of DYSA, we would like to dedicate this season in his name,” Gutierrez said.
A moment of silence was then held in his honor.
Gutierrez then explained all of the improvements that were made by the City of Dayton to Daniel Park during the pandemic, which caused most activities to grind to a halt in 2020. He credited former Councilman Alvin Burress for leading the push to renovate the park and Councilwoman Sherial Lawson, Councilman Troy Barton, former Councilman Wendell Null, former Fire Chief Murphy Greene and City Manager Theo Melancon for supporting those efforts. As is customary, the city manager also was invited to throw out the first pitch on opening day.
“Even amid a pandemic, they ensured these projects were completed and met the needs of the kids. We were able to completely remodel the concession stand (at the baseball fields), boys and girls bathrooms on both sides, add fill dirt on each field to improve field drainage, [add] new dugouts and new scoreboards, and add professional sports lighting around all of our ball fields,” Gutierrez said.
An estimated 500 children, making up 45 teams, signed up to play spring baseball and softball this season, he added.
The fresh look of Daniel Park also includes a new playground that was added in 2019 when City employees and volunteers transformed an under-used space into a kid-designed, state-of-the-art playground. With the new playground and all the park’s other improvements, Daniel Park is a jewel in the crown of the City’s master parks plan.
Daniel Park, officially known as Gov. Bill and Vara Faye Daniel Park, is located on Arnold Drive, off of FM 1008. The park also features a city pool, covered pavilion, picnic tables and a walking/jogging trail.