SYDNEY MINES, N.S. -- There may soon be a few more Toronto Blue Jays fans in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia.

A baseball field in the community is receiving $155,000 from the Jays Care Foundation for upgrades that will help those with accessibility issues have an easier time getting into the game.

Despite being nearly 2000 km from Toronto, players and coaches at Sydney Mines’ Nicole Meaney Ball Park are feeling the love from Canada’s Major League Baseball team.

“We were totally thrilled to be chosen,” says Ken Bradley, Little League Canada director for Nova Scotia. “Once it’s done, we will be lacking nothing. This will be the crown jewel of our whole complex here in Sydney Mines Little League.”

The announcement was made Friday during a nationally televised game between the Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The goal of the Jays Care Foundation is to create a level playing field for children and youth across the country.

Bradley says all kids who use the field will benefit from the upgrades that are planned, but the biggest winners will be those who participate in the Challenger Baseball program, which is designed to empower children, youth and adults living with physical and/or cognitive disabilities.

“They safety and security that it’s going to provide them, that it’s going to grow, hopefully we’ll be able to at least double our registration,” says Justin MacDonald, coordinator of the Sydney Mines Challenger Baseball program.

MacDonald says the funding will be used to excavate the infield and replace it with artificial turf, as well as building accessible gates to the field and ramps for the dugouts.

He says in the past, players with disabilities were sometimes deterred by conditions on the dirt field.

“If it was bad weather, a little bit muddy, some of the kids, even if they just had a sensory issue, didn’t want to play in the mud or with the dirt,” describes MacDonald. “Just running, vision issues, the stability on the field, tripping, falling.”

The funding goes a long way for a Little League program that already offers free registration, and a field that hosted the Canadian Senior Little League Championship last year, and is scheduled to do again in 2021, pandemic permitting.

The total project cost is expected to be around $460,000. The Cape Breton Regional Municipality chipped in $50,000 for the project, and the organization has also applied for provincial and federal funding.

Organizers say without the money from the Blue Jays, it would never have gotten off the ground.

“It’s a huge thank you to the Jays Care Foundation for everything they do, and this would almost be the cherry on top,” says MacDonald.

Work at the field is scheduled to begin in September, with the goal of having it finished by late October.

Another reason to cheer for Canada’s team, as they contributing to growing the game here at home.