After three years of planning and fundraising, the Wantagh School District and community congregated on April 17 at the newly dedicated James Lodato Field of Dreams, located at Forest Lake Elementary School, to honor former student James Lodato (2010-2018), whose life was cut short but whose legacy will always be remembered. The dedication attracted students, Wantagh Little League players, school district administrators, PTA members and community residents who not only worked diligently to see a dream come true but who watched as a young student demonstrated hope, courage and strength during his illness.
Former Forest Lake Elementary School Principal Anthony Ciuffo, whose idea to honor James resulted in the baseball field, explained that the new and much anticipated venue is more than a baseball field. “This field will serve as a reminder of how fragile life is and how something so beautiful can come from the most horrendous of life’s tragedies,” Mr. Ciuffo said. “We hope to see this field bring joy, laughter, memories and many life lessons to the children of Wantagh. This field is about our hero James Lodato. May his spirit live on and guide those who are lucky enough to play on it.”
Former Wantagh Little League President Ray Whitaker worked with Mr. Ciuffo to make the James Lodato Field of Dreams project come to fruition. He explained that he never had the privilege of meeting James but knows they would have been good friends since they were both Mets fans. “I would like to thank James Lodato for the friends I have made along the way [during the project] and for bringing us all together.”
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder was also on hand and announced that there are plans to build a scoreboard. He reminded the students to be respectful when playing on the field. ”It is important that you remember James and what he stood for,” Commissioner Ryder said. “To remember James is to remember what he brought to the community.”
Nassau County Legislator Steven Rhoads noted that the field is a “great reminder of what the Wantagh community is, neighbor knowing neighbor.” He added, “It’s a special and hallowed place and a [baseball field] generations will be able to enjoy.”
Superintendent of Schools John C. McNamara congratulated Mr. Ciuffo for his passion for the project and his knowledge of what it would mean for the healing process. “This is a special day for the community,” Mr. McNamara said. “We will learn terrific life lessons [on the field] and honor James Lodato as we do.”
Parents Christine and Jimmy Lodato then threw a first pitch to Wantagh Little League players Justin Pabon and Lincoln Kelly, respectively, to officially celebrate the opening of the James Lodato Field of Dreams.
A: Prior to the dedication of the James Lodato Field of Dreams, Forest Lake Elementary School students in art teacher Laura Capozzi’s class colored a banner marking the occasion.
B: On April 17, the Wantagh community came together to celebrate the dedication of the James Lodato Field of Dreams located at Forest Lake Elementary School.
C: Wantagh Middle School student Veronica Familio played the national anthem at the start of the James Lodato Field of Dreams dedication.
D and E: Parents Christine Lodato and Jimmy Lodato threw the first pitch during their son’s dedication ceremony for the James Lodato Field of Dreams. From left, Wantagh Little League players Lincoln Kelly and Justin Pabon caught the first balls thrown by parents Christine and Jimmy Lodato.
F: Former Forest Lake Elementary School Principal Anthony Ciuffo addressed members of the Wantagh community who attended the dedication of the James Lodato Field of Dreams.
Photos courtesy of the Wantagh School District