Daniel Oaks was speechless.
So was his father, Danny, a member of the Independence Parks and Recreation Department who is in charge of maintaining the city’s baseball fields.
Before the first game was played at the new Independence Ability Field at McCoy Park, which offers total access to youngster facing physical challenges, parks director Eric Urfer asked Daniel to come to home plate.
The 12-year-old who moves with the help of a walker, due to his plight with cerebral palsy, joined Urfer at home plate as Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., members of the Kansas City Royals and more than 1,500 fans, special needs youngsters and their parents watched.
“I was thinking, ‘What’s going on? Why am I out here?’” Daniel said.
For two years, Urfer explained how Daniel was a motivating force in collecting funds for the new park, which received monetary support from the Kansas City Royals, the Cal Ripken Sr., Foundation and other area businesses.
“When we would talk to an organization about helping, and they said, ‘It sounds like a great idea, but it just doesn’t fit into our plans,’ I thought of Daniel’s face when he found out we were building a baseball field where he could play,” Urfer explained.
“His face, the look of joy when he found out about this field, that served as our motivation. That’s what kept us going.”
Before the first pitch and the cry of “Play ball!” Urfer introduced Daniel, then unfurled a banner on the backstop behind home plate that simply said "DANIEL’S FIELD."
“I was speechless,” Daniel said. “I almost started crying. I couldn’t believe it. When I first heard about the field I was so excited, it was all I wanted to talk about. Now, I am just speechless. I want to tell you how cool this is, but I am speechless.”
Danny Oaks was caught completely off guard.
“I had no idea they were doing this for my son,” Danny said. “He happened to be here when Mr. Urfer received one of the first checks for the park, and he talked with Daniel and found out how much he loved baseball.
“But I had no idea this was going to be named ‘Daniel’s Field.’ Like Daniel said, ‘I'm speechless.’ Daniel inspires our family every day of his life.
“He doesn’t know what the word ‘can’t’ means, because it’s not in his vocabulary. He might not be able to do things some kids can do, but he’s going to do everything he possibly can – including playing baseball.”
Daniel politely interrupts his father and adds, “This is going to be my second home. If I’m not home or at school, I want to be here playing baseball. I love Daniel’s Field. I just love it.”