Mornings at the Field of Dreams

Lou Ann Homan
Mornings at the Field of Dreams
Maintaining Ocracoke's new ball field is a labor of love.

The rain had settled the sand and dust leaving the world sparkling as I biked over to the Ocracoke Community Park. My interview with Danny Worsley was at 8:00, but as I pulled in, he was pulling out. I gave a wave to try to flag him down, but alas, he was leaving in his truck. I checked my watch, yes, 8:00.

I went ahead and parked my bike and found Bob Toth waiting for me to talk about the ball field. Bob, along with his wife Ruth, owned the Café Atlantic for 25 years. They closed their doors in the fall of 2013. With time on his hands, Bob is busy serving on many boards including the Board of the Youth Center, where he became involved with the ball field. As I sat pulling out my notebook and pen, I was aware of his excitement and involvement with this community project. For the first year ever, the boys and girls of Ocracoke were able to play ball on their own field with a total of 80 children from t-ball to high school ball. The high school had a varsity team made up of both boys and girls. They were all 9th and 10th graders (with one junior as the exception), because the older kids had never played baseball.

As we talked, the sun caught the light of the sprinklers watering the grounds which had just been fertilized. Building a ball field has been a community project, to say the least, with a budget of well over a million dollars which is being provided by grants and private donors. Bob was hoping to have concessions next year and maybe even an adult softball league. I had to laugh a bit with him. “If you build it they will come, right?” He chuckled softly. It was then I noticed Danny was back but totally ignoring us. “Do you think he will come talk to me?” I asked Bob. I felt a little like a reporter with my pen and notebook, but really I just like meeting folks and hearing their stories. Bob said he had to go and that if I stayed Danny might just come over. Bob left. I stayed.

Danny Worsley
Danny Worsley

It wasn’t long before Danny, reluctantly, meandered over and sat with me on the bleachers. He told me he didn’t like this attention and that the ball field belonged to everyone and it was a community effort. “I know,” I said, “but I understand you are here at the crack of dawn every day working on this field.” He nodded, but barely. I put down my pen and paper and we just talked.  

He grew up near Rocky Mount, North Carolina, playing football for his high school team and all through his college years. He learned to love football by watching the Washington Redskins play their first broadcasted game on his folks’ black and white television set. 

From college he traveled to Montana to work for the Wild Land Fire and Wilderness Trail division for the Bitterroot National Forest. I could see those stories in his eyes as he talked to me. From there he worked as a locomotive engineer, then a commercial fisherman, and on to the ferry division. “All of your work has been under the big sky,” I stated. He nodded as he looked at the ball field. He told me about his daughter who lives in Asheville, North Carolina, and owns her own Yoga studio. 

“It took 14 truckloads of sod to lay this field,” he said, “with 20 folks showing up to help.” We both turned our heads to watch the sprinklers in the outfield as if they too were getting ready to play ball. “It take 50,000 gallons of water per week to water this ball field, “ he told me. He had been busy trying to get the salt level lowered by combining two types of water…one from the well, one from the tanks. 

I asked him about his favorite ball team. “Baltimore Orioles,” he quickly replied, but he has never been to one of their games. 

“So, Danny,” I asked, “what brings you here every morning, keeps you here all day and into the evening?” I already knew what he would say…the kids, of course. 

“There were over 500 folks here for the grand opening,” he told me. That’s a lot of folks considering only a thousand live here. I looked over the field, the two sets of bleachers, the batting cages, the road leading to the ball field. 

Danny was itching to get back to work, and it was time for me to leave. I thanked him with a handshake and told him I loved baseball too. “My sons all played, and now my grandsons play on the same field. I know the feeling.” 

“I guess it is as American as hot dogs and apple pie,” I said with a smile. 

As quickly as he showed up, Danny was off doing what he does most often these days… taking care of Ocracoke’s field of dreams.

Play ball!

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