Todd Frazier baseball field for children with special needs

Sometimes all it takes to get an idea off the ground is a hometown connection, whether that idea is a small business, a community project, or in the case of Christian Kane, a Field of Dreams. His hometown connection happened to be former MLB All-Star Todd Frazier.

This is not the field of dreams that comes to mind for many. It’s not surrounded by a cornfield and it’s definitely not in Iowa. Called The RWJBarnabas Health Field of Dreams, it is a unique inclusive complex in Toms River, NJ where children and adults with special needs can have fun in a safe and welcoming environment.

With the help of Frazier and countless others, Kane’s idea – nearly five years after its inception – came to life this past weekend. And Kane did it all with his 11-year-old son Gavin in mind.

how it started
On July 12, 2012, Kane was driving when his vehicle was hit by a beer truck. Kane came through just fine, but Gavin suffered a traumatic brain injury that changed his life forever.

“He went from little to nothing,” Kane said. “To a point where a lot of doctors just said to us, ‘Listen, you know, just put him in a home.'”

Kane and his wife Mary decided to bring Gavin home and help him get well. Gavin can no longer walk or speak on his own – he communicates via a tablet – but he’s like any other kid. When he was about 5 or 6 years old, they started looking into a special needs baseball league.

There was just one problem: it was almost 90 minutes away, which is quite a hike for the family of eight.

“Why do we drive an hour and 20 minutes to play Challenger baseball when we live in Toms River, baseball’s mecca in terms of youth baseball?” Kane wondered. “So [I decided] I wanted to start building a baseball field.”

Just building a baseball field doesn’t seem right, Kane said, because so many of the places he’s tried to take Gavin to aren’t very inclusive. So he decided to build a special needs complex unlike anything else in the world—a complex that would include a playground, a basketball court, and a number of other additions.

In the midst of it all, Kane knew exactly who to call to break the news: Frazier, his hometown hero.

“He said, ‘Listen, we have an idea, something in the works. We’re far, far away from anything that’s happening. We want to include you,'” Frazier recalled of the conversation that took place around 2017.

From that moment Frazier was there. The couple stayed in touch, and in 2019 Frazier donated $50,000 to support the formation of the Todd Frazier Special Needs Baseball League at the complex.

Frazier’s help with the project was primarily financial, but he used his platform to get more people involved. He even designs t-shirts for the kids to wear so they can feel like the grown-ups.

“You deserve every inkling of it,” Frazier said.

play ball
Toms River’s very own Field of Dreams celebrated its grand opening on April 30th with nearly 500 guests in attendance. Gavin took the mound to throw the ceremonial first pitch to Frazier.

Frazier said, like Kane, one of his favorite moments was seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces and helping kids swing the bat. But the best? It’s close to home.

“I could walk there if I wanted to, it’s that close to my house,” Frazier said. “It just works perfectly because I’m right down the street. I’ll go there, I’ll have fun with kids who need help and kids who just, like I said, just want to be a big player for a day.”

Kane said he could barely hold Gavin as they entered the complex – he was so excited.

He compared it to a moment a few days ago when Gavin and Frazier took the field in Rutgers’ annual Scarlet White spring game. Less than five yards from the goal line, Frazier took the snap and passed it to Gavin, who, with his father’s help, pushed the ball into the end zone to win the touchdown.

“Todd gave him the football and I barely held him because he knew what was going on. He knew what he wanted to do,” Kane said. “It’s a good feeling. That’s what you want. You’re trying to create memories for him that were lost in that accident.”

Although the complex has technically opened, it’s not quite ready for everyone to visit on a daily basis. Its a lot to do.

To make this idea a reality — alongside taking high school math classes, spending time with his family, and building a complex — Kane raised $2.2 million in cash and a total of $3.6 million. However, he’s still $300,000 short due to pandemic setbacks and inflation.

The Kanes gave up a lot to achieve this, so there’s no way they’re giving up.

“It seemed like it suddenly went from nothing to something in a heartbeat over the course of two weeks,” Kane said. “Both my wife and I, we just always knew this was going to be built one way or the other.”

Because if you build it, they will come.

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