LITTLE FERRY, N.J. -- In a small New Jersey borough just ten minutes off the George Washington Bridge in the shadow of the sunny Manhattan skyline, the Little Ferry Police Athletic League and the New York Mets held the inaugural Shannon Dalton Forde Memorial tournament on Saturday morning.The round-robin softball
LITTLE FERRY, N.J. -- In a small New Jersey borough just ten minutes off the George Washington Bridge in the shadow of the sunny Manhattan skyline, the Little Ferry Police Athletic League and the New York Mets held the inaugural Shannon Dalton Forde Memorial tournament on Saturday morning.
The round-robin softball tournament featured youth teams from Little Ferry, Ridgefield Park, Kearny and Livingston, and marked the first organized action played on the field that was dedicated one year ago in memory of Shannon Dalton Forde, the Mets' longtime senior director of media relations, who lost her long bout with breast cancer in March 2016.
Former Mets pitcher Ron Darling, who has served as a color analyst for the team since 2006, joined a contingent of Mets front-office staffers and representatives of the Little Ferry PAL in welcoming Forde's family and hometown community to the newly renovated field.
Darling crouched behind home plate and received ceremonial first pitches from Forde's young children, Kendall and Nick, as family, friends and loved ones looked on.
"It reminds me of my youth when I am here," said Darling. "This field didn't always look like this; now the kids have a place that is safe and beautiful. I have played on a lot of bad fields, but this field is gorgeous. Do you know how hard it is to get an entire field built? To bring it back from the past and make it special again? It is a very, very difficult thing. I think only someone whose now memory, but great life, like Shannon Forde, could have ever pulled something like this together. I think that is what today is all about."
Darling added, "Shannon is immortal to all of us who knew her very well. When I was a kid, I wanted to know everything about the fields that I played on. Someday, someone is going to ask, 'Who is Shannon Dalton Forde?' They're going to be able to tell a great tale and story about a wonderful young woman who was so selfless, personable and amazing in so many ways. The hardest part, I think, is the family that she left behind. But her family will always be able to come here when times are the hardest and be able to sit in the dugout and reminisce about how amazing Shannon was."
Forde, who was 44 years old when she passed away, spent half her life working for the Mets organization. Over the course of her 22 years with the club, Forde brought joy and delight to those who interacted with her daily.
Jay Horwitz, the Mets' vice president of media relations, has been with the organization for 38 years and was one of Forde's very best friends, as well as her supervisor throughout her tenure with the team. Horwitz served as an integral figure alongside MLB and its affiliates to spearhead the fundraising efforts for completing the repairs to the field.
Nearly $250,000 was raised, for renovations that included new dugouts with protective fencing, benches, perimeter fencing, bleachers, a backstop, a scoreboard and field signs.
"It is a great legacy," Horwitz said. "She was a person who touched everybody in all facets of the game -- the players, the media, the front office, they all loved her. When she passed away, nine Major League teams held a moment of silence for her. She had a funeral mass at Citi Field and over one thousand people came. It is not often that a PR person gets this kind of recognition and that tells you what type of person she was."
Horwitz added, "The best part about it is that she grew up here. Her mom and dad live two blocks from here. When her kids are older, they can look to the field and see their mother's name. That is a pretty good testament to what she was about. It is not a mausoleum -- it is a living remembrance that will just keep going and going."
Little Ferry PAL director Mike Hincliffe admits that this project took on special meaning for his team after he was approached about helping with renovations to the field.
"The turnout is always solid for Shannon," said Hinchcliffe. "It is why me -- somebody who knew her only vaguely, being a transplant to the community -- can just feel it. You feel what all these people feel about her. You feel what guys like Jay feel about her. You sense the passion, and it gives you that drive to do the best that you can when you do things. When they came in and asked us to do this, you start to understand the meaning and why they are doing it and who they are doing it for. It takes on a little bit more meaning. I think that our guys got together and did a really nice job."
Matt Kardos is a contributor to MLB.com.