Don't haul out the peanuts and Cracker Jack just yet: The opening of Sonny Lawson Field has been delayed from today to let the new sod take hold -- and that means the first game of the Homeless Diamond's third season has also been pushed back, to 9 a.m. Tuesday, July 9. But at least there will be another season for the league created by local realtor Joe Carabello, which fields teams of homeless players for weekly games at this ballpark in the heart of downtown Denver, and just up the street from several shelter providers.
Baseball has always been big in this part of town; Jack Kerouac wrote about a game on this field in On the Road. But over the past few decades, Sonny Lawson Park had gone downhill, a hangout for transients who scared away the locals in this increasingly gentrified area. But Carabello's games were a hit with the homeless and neighbors alike and went a long way toward making the area more welcoming.
And last year, the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation commited to giving Sonny Lawson Park a major overhaul -- cheered on in that effort by a unique community group that's working on a new vision for the area. For starters, neighbors wanted that high fence -- which had protected players from boozy fans and vice versa -- at least partially removed, so more of the park was accessible. And it was, replaced by lower and more hospitable fencing. But the city also faced some challenges with the irrigation system and all the snow this spring; crews weren't able to work for an entire month.
In fact, the project was going so slowly that Carabello was concerned he wouldn't be able to book the field this year...and that worried his regulars, who have come to rely on the game as a home away from homeless. But finally the city granted him a permit to begin play on July 2.
The improved ballfield at Sonny Lawson Park.
Then late last month, the city postponed the opening of Sonny Lawson Park a week -- which meant pushing back Carabello's permit. But now Parks and Rec is confident that the field will be ready next Monday, and Carabello is pulling together his teams for next Tuesday's first game of the season -- and the return of a league that's a true diamond in the rough.
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