For 14 years, Roy Gayle volunteer Jon Polglaze spends his summers on baseball fields, a life-changing experience he describes going far beyond balls and strikes.
"Roy Gayle pretty much means the world to me. That's my life out there. I love the kids, seeing the talent come through there, and pass on teachings for generations to come," Polglaze said.
But any future baseball could be in the past if the Rockford Pony Baseball League can't pitch $1 million by the end of this year. The complex's owner, Houston based Service Corporation International, wants to sell the field's assets. Local supporters don't want to blow their save opportunity and lose the field for good.
"We've been here 43 years. We've had 20,000 kids come here, we'd like to have another 20,000 kids come through," Polglaze said.
With the help of Cubs WGN radio man Pat Hughes, Roy Gayle supporters held a charity dinner and silent auction. Hughes is impressed with the local effort to keep the area's national pastime going strong.
"I think youth baseball is a tremendous way to build that foundation for your whole life, having that love for the game," Hughes said.
With the event pulling in several thousand dollars, Polglaze, the chief umpire, is confident Roy Gayle will survive one fundraising reliever at a time.
"Everyone pulls together when it comes to Roy Gayle, and it's just a strong bond that everyone gets for being out there, and it’s one thing we'd lose if we lose that park," Polglaze said.
It’s a field of dreams, which area youth baseball enthusiasts refuse to let fall beyond by the ninth inning.