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Youth softball and baseball teams across the Bay Area kicked-off their 2014 seasons last weekend with ceremonial Opening Day activities.

For the East Valley Softball League, this year’s event looked better than ever.

The players, girls ranging in age from 4 to 16, were still there, wearing bright-colored uniforms, carrying creative team banners and throwing candy to cheering family members.

It was the facilities themselves that had been transformed.

For the first time, the League participants stepped out onto the four, newly refurbished fields at Ocala Middle School, one of only two girls’ softball facilities in San Jose and the League’s home field.

This work was completed as part of NVIDIA’s Project Inspire, an annual community service event held in place of a holiday party.

Teams lined up around the infield for their league's opening day ceremony.
Teams lined up around the infield for their league’s opening day ceremony.

The new softball field is just one dividend of the investment. Our investment of $500,000 in labor and materials at Ocala unlocked another $1 million in support from government and nonprofit agencies for additional improvements.

Those funds did much more than improve the appearance of the school and its playing fields: funds are also being used for after-school and related community programs to address the academic and social challenges faced by the area’s students.

The goal to create a safer, more functional space for the girls to play was the vision of John Trejo, the League’s president. The League serves more than 400 girls in East San Jose and the fields are also used by over 25 nearby schools, yet the facilities paled in comparison to what’s available for local boy’s Little League teams.

Trejo’s dream became a reality in December, when Project Inspire and the manpower of 1,500 volunteers descended on Ocala Middle School.

Six-acres of sod, funded by the City of San Jose, was deposited at the school—to be rolled out by hand by hundreds of volunteers.  Worn infields were covered in new clay, and studded with new bases.  Dugout roofs were added to offer cover for players.

The makeover goes beyond the field themselves.  The surrounding grounds were landscaped. Additional bleachers were assembled and dozens of picnic tables were built to offer seating for spectators, and a new play area was created for players’ siblings.

We’re currently searching for this year’s Project Inspire project and we’ll keep you current on our progress.