LITTLE FERRY, N.J. -- Strip away the bright white chalk lines, the regal black fencing, the cameras and reporters. Scrub out the freshly sodded lawn, the scoreboard, the onlookers and well-wishers. What was left Friday morning on this little plot of land near the Hudson River was a boy, a
LITTLE FERRY, N.J. -- Strip away the bright white chalk lines, the regal black fencing, the cameras and reporters. Scrub out the freshly sodded lawn, the scoreboard, the onlookers and well-wishers. What was left Friday morning on this little plot of land near the Hudson River was a boy, a girl, a baseball and a game of catch.
It was not so long ago that Shannon Forde was the girl at the park on Mehrhof Road, playing softball with her father, sister and friends. She would have hated this sort of attention, David Wright laughed, after scooping up throws from Forde's daughter, Kendall, and son, Nicholas.
But she would have adored the unity. Hundreds of Forde's friends, colleagues and admirers poured into her hometown on Friday to dedicate Shannon Dalton Forde Memorial Field, the passion project of Major League Baseball, the Forde family and the borough of Little Ferry. Using some of the $235,000 that MLB raised last winter through its Play Ball charity auction, members of the Little Ferry Police Athletic League renovated what was once little more than a patch of grass and clay. It was all dedicated to Forde, who lost her battle with breast cancer in March 2016.
In went dugouts with protective fencing and benches, bleachers, a backstop and a scoreboard. After people close to Forde took turns relaying her virtues to the crowd, Kendall and Nicholas helped unsheathe a bright blue-and-gold sign marking the field. Then they walked out to the pitcher's mound to make ceremonial tosses to Wright, part of a cavalcade of luminaries on hand for the event.
The stars came out to support Forde and her family, as they did throughout her battle with cancer. Wright. John Franco. Ron Darling. Sandy Alderson. Omar Minaya. Jim Duquette. Bobby Valentine. Willie Randolph. Jay Horwitz. And so many others.
"Jay and Shannon ... they truly looked out for me," Wright said. "The relationship goes back a long way. The memories that I've had with Shannon are going to last for me for a lifetime."
The idea is that through this field, located steps from Forde's childhood home, such memories will last even longer than that. In addition to making renovations at the site, Little Ferry's Police Athletic League will organize and schedule youth activities at the field for decades to come, creating a living memorial that Forde would have cherished. Children such as Kendall and Nicholas will be able to use the field every day of the year.
"I think seeing her kids smile is probably what she would have been most proud of," Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said.
Of course, it was not just the Fordes who could smile on this sun-splashed day, which emcee Gary Cohen called a happy occasion despite the tragedy at its roots. The morning belonged to everyone, as Forde's niece, Felicia Spinella, put it, who came "from near and far to help us celebrate Shannon and the incredible, irreplaceable woman that she was."
"Shine on, Aunt Shannon -- your presence we miss, your memory we treasure, loving you always and missing you forever," Spinella said, the new field glistening behind her. "Now let's play ball."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.