Field honors victim of boating accident
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
May 6, 2014, 11:49
BLAKE BELDEN/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Sterling Austin threw the first pitch to commemorate the opening of the baseball field in honor of his brother, Grayson.
PRINCE GEORGE — Although the scars remain fresh for those who knew and loved Grayson Austin, his passion for baseball will live on in Prince George County as his name sits atop the scoreboard of a renovated field at JEJ Moore Middle School.
Through the unwavering motivation of Grayson’s family and the Prince George community, a revamped baseball field was dedicated in honor of the 10-year-old boy on Saturday morning.
Grayson died in a tragic boating accident two years ago, an event that continues to weigh heavy on the community, but not enough to stifle the passion and enthusiasm that Grayson brought to those around him.
“In the face of tragedy, you look for a way to carry your son’s life on, and the best way that we could come up with was a field in his memory,” said Grayson’s mother, Melinda.
The field is the first phase of a major revitalization to the entire JEJ Moore Middle School sports complex, said Jeff Stoke, the president of the Prince George Parks and Recreation Foundation, which has provided major contributions to the renovations of the field including flower beds along the fence, concrete paths, a scorer’s table and picnic benches along the paths.
The foundation, led by Stoke and Grayson’s father, Calvin, serves to support the Parks and Recreation Department by raising funds and resources to complete certain projects.
Stoke said that this project underlines the commitment of the county citizens who have provided overwhelming support for recreation and youth sports.
“We are gracious of the donations of the Prince George community to allow us to make these improvements through the foundation,” Stoke said.
Continued improvements planned by the Prince George Parks and Recreation Foundation include a new scorer’s box, a playground adjacent to right field, bleacher canopies, paved walking areas and bullpen areas.
Keith Rotzoll, the director of the Parks and Recreation Department in Prince George, commended the Austin family for their continued dedication and emphasis on the importance of youth sports in the face of tragedy, and led the unveiling of the new scoreboard with the words “Grayson Austin Field” printed in bold letters at the top.
“For those of you in attendance, and for hundreds of thousands of kids and parents that will visit the site in the future, this dedication will serve as a symbolic reminder as to what this sport meant to Grayson Austin,” Rotzoll said.
The ceremony marked the opening day for the 36th recreational baseball and softball seasons in Prince George County.
Calvin, Melinda and Sterling Austin are shown at the dedication ceremony.
Melinda offered a wealth of gratitude for everyone who has helped them through tough times and made their goal a reality.
“Each day is a hurdle, but with the love and support that everyone gives us, we somehow manage to cross those hurdles,” Melinda said during the ceremony.“Words can’t say how we feel for everyone here, and for all that you’ve done for us. We love each of you deeply, and thank you for everything. We pray that everyone here will enjoy the beautification that is taking place with this field.”
Rotzoll made an effort to thank the coaches, parents, Parks and Recreation staff and everyone else without whom he said the new field would not be possible, including the ongoing support from the Board of Supervisors, which allocated certain funds to help out for the cause.
“We’ve got a very pro-recreation board,” Rotzoll said.
Jerry Skalsky, a member of the Recreation Advisory Commission, told the members of the community to embrace the new opportunity that they took a part in creating.
“This is your park. You helped pay for this,” Skalsky said, before recalling his days growing up in Prince George playing baseball in cow pastures prior to the existence of any recreational leagues in the county.
Raffle prizes at the opening event included two baseball bats and two practice jerseys signed by Lauren Gibson, from the USA Softball team, in addition to a Jackie Bradley Jr. baseball.
All donations to the Prince George Parks and Recreation Foundation are tax deductible. The foundation can be reached at (804)-722-8612.