By Danielle McCarthy Everett, Correspondent
Belton City Council members will consider a proposal later this month to rename the baseball complex at Heritage Park in honor of Jace Jefferson, a 12-year-old youth baseball player in Belton who passed away in November 2016 after battling cancer. After Jace’s passing, the Belton Youth Baseball Association board started brainstorming ways to carry on the boy’s legacy and contacted his mother to ask permission.
“Of course, I said yes and I cried,” Meloney Jefferson said. “It’s a very, very humbling experience. It’s absolutely incredible. Our hearts are broken, but we definitely know Jace sees what the BYBA is doing and he’s smiling.”
The BYBA proposed the name “Jace Jefferson Baseball Complex” to the Belton Parks Board. On March 6, board members approved the proposal, sending the measure to city council for review. If council members approve the proposal at their regular meeting on March 28, representatives from the city and BYBA may begin working on signage and determining a date for the official renaming, said Paul Romer, public information officer for the city of Belton. Romer also said the city has received a significant amount of attention online regarding the proposal and has received many emails in support.
BYBA President Eric Johnson said he is encouraged by the progress and wants to see the baseball complex renamed, so Jace’s story might live on for generations to come.
“We would like Jace to be remembered as someone who loved baseball, but above all else, loved people,” Johnson said. “He had exceptional sportsmanship. He was a good teammate and a good friend to everyone he came in contact with.”
In addition to the possible renaming, Johnson said all 765 players in the BYBA will sport Jace’s name and number, 21, on their jersey sleeves this baseball season.
Meloney Jefferson said the effort is proof of the bond baseball creates among participating families and said she and her family are beyond grateful for what the BYBA has done to honor her son.
“I’m so overwhelmed by the fact that they want to keep him alive,” she said. “To me, this really keeps his legacy alive.”
The public is welcome to attend the March 28 council meeting where the proposal will be considered. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Harris Community Center at 401 N. Alexander St. Parks and Recreation Director Matt Bates is also accepting public comments related to the proposal at 933-5860 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He will share the feedback with council members.