Officials, Little League players and the community gathered at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria for a reopening ceremony Tuesday evening. The ballfield turned into a crime scene last week when a gunman opened fire at a baseball practice for the Republican team getting ready for the Congressional Baseball Game. Five people were injured, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.
Tuesday's event recognized the first responders who put their own lives at risk to protect others.
The reopening ceremony kicked off at 6 p.m. and followed with Little League baseball players taking the field to play their games. The ceremony was pushed back from Monday due to inclement weather.
Taking Eugene Simpson Stadium Park back was a success for a community desperately looking to move past a shooting that paralyzed the Del Ray neighborhood.
“As prepared as we think we are, you don't expect it to happen on the baseball field where your kids play all the time and I think it does take away that comfort that they have of being here,” said one resident.
“It's very special to come to this event because it's showing that Alexandria is not weak to these events happening,” said 11-year-old Nick Canning.
Young and old alike came together for the reopening ceremony at the baseball field that has become symbolic for unity. Everyone was invited and everything was free. All athletes participating in sports throughout the city were invited to be on the field for the ceremony. The athletes were also being encouraged to wear their jerseys.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) described the scene where a gunman opened fire last Wednesday.
“I was lying down behind the dugout and I had a big red shirt on with a red hat,” he said. “I was an absolute sitting duck target.”
Now, the crime scene tape is gone and baseball has returned and the scoreboard became a backdrop for this new chapter in the park's history.
Alexandria's first responders threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a crowd filled with gratitude.
One Little League coach said the message here today is all about the community, overcoming adversity and reconfirming that this is a family-friendly place.
“I think they know what was going on,” said coach Paul Miller. “The schools explained things to them I think. They have watched the news. At first, they were little worried. Now, they are kind of more exploratory I would say. I would say thank God nobody was killed here, so that kind of alleviates some of the negatives and blackness that sits here. Bottom line is I think the kids are ready to play. They got it behind them. The community is ready to get behind them and that is why this ceremony tonight is to just move beyond what happened last week.”