Baseball fields

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OLD BASEBALL/SOFTBALL PARKS
(Doc: Baseball Fields)

WATER STREET PARK was the first park. It was in the area which is now the site of Water Street Medical Center. In its prime it was probably the best equipped park of all the old facilities. It had full seating and lights with a locker room and showers under the bleachers.

Back in the 1920’s the San Francisco Seals and the Seattle Rainers of the Pacific Coast league, which was the West Coast equivalent of the Major leagues wanted to find two cities, one for each of them to train at and then play exhibition games for Spring training. Santa Cruz, Monterey and Hollister were in the running to see who could have the best field and the most enticing amenities for them to come.

Santa Cruz had reputation of being a good sports town. It had a team, the Padres, playing in what was called the State League, involving teams as far away as Stockton. Each small town around Santa Cruz had their own team as well as some companies or groups. Plus Santa Cruz had more than one team for locals to play on. The seasons lasted into October just like the World Series does now. .

Seattle trained and played games here, at least for a while. They traveled to the city of the other team to play as well as playing against local or out of town teams. There were at least two locals, Manuel Netto and Dick Fassio, who struck out a number of Rainers and were offered the opportunity to sign with the club to go out and play professional baseball. In the write ups of SCHS records on this web site, it mentions other later players did sign pro contracts. Earlier players had responsibilities at home and were not able to accept college scholarships or pro contracts.

Once the Rainers stopped training here, the economic benefits of maintaining the Park were gone and the park was not kept up. It was a shame because it was a great park and place to play. It finally became run down and had to be torn down.

BAY STREET or CALIFORNIA STREET PARK was the next park. The boundary of the park were from California Street to Seaside Street and from Trescony to Bay Street. It was a lighted field where both hardball and softball were played on the same field. SCHS played some games there. Even one year played a football game against Fresno at the field for the first night game on the Central Coast. During Spring the baseball team played two night games, which were thought to be the first night high school baseball games, in the area at least.

No houses there then. Just trees and the ball park. Some of the players lived just around the corner and would bring their families to the parking area lined with old telephone poles and logs to form a parking area. They pulled their cars up to the logs facing the field and their families could sit in the car and watch the game.

The field had no fences in the outfield, so if the ball was hit over the outfielders heads, they had to run for their life to retrieve the ball to stop a home run.

By the mid 1940’s the whole area of the park was replaced solidly by houses..

LOWER AND UPPER DIAMONDS AT SCHS was the third park along with the first De Leveaga for some softball games.

In the early twenties the school and community worked to make the school field a Community Park. It would be called Memorial Park in honor of the eleven former students from SCHS who died during World War I. The area where the girls junior varsity field is now was the baseball field. Also in the area abutting Laurel street a girls field was put in.

When the configuration of the area was changed later, it take its present name Memorial Field Still in honor the same eleven, plus who gave up their lives in World War III. All their names are inscribed on the wall of the entrance way into the main building.

In the mid forties city A league softball was played on the present football field while the rest of the games were played at De Laveaga Park. Home plate was on the street side of the field facing Laurel street. As a fund raiser, Donkey softball was played periodically. A player after hitting the ball, had to pull the donkeys around the bases. One of the players had an easier time moving the donkeys, since he worked with the mule pack in the Army.

Organizations would use the field for different activities. One of the groups, the Portuguese Association held their Festia and had great fire works for July 4TH.

Later in the 1930’s local baseball teams, such as the Swiss Diary a local milk distributor, played on the upper diamond, where the school team plays now. The differences are home plate faced the street and it was not nearly as nice as it is now. Balls would be hit into the houses across the street and into the tennis courts up toward the shop buildings. It was a small park.

Later the SCHS baseball teams played their home games at the present Harvey West Park. In the mid 1950’s Harvey West baseball areas home plate was a little to the right of where it is now, but facing toward were the football bleachers are now. Guess in away could say reversed.

DE LAVEAGA PARK was exclusively for softball. The original field was located where the golf lodge is now. The place was pretty unique, because of where it was. Deer, fog, motorcycles and water tower were all a part of the place. There was soft soil, fences and canyons.

There was a big water tower as you came into the park with a make shift track for motorcycles under it. You could hear them and see the dust all night long. There was a concession stand that gave a candy bar, when you brought back a foul ball. You had to chase the balls down the canyons to get them. You would go down there, the deer would came out and scare the heck out of you.

More often than not the “fog” would come in before the night was over. It would get so bad the infielders could not see the outfielders. In the outfield on a fly ball, you would have to wait until the ball came down out of the fog before see it or catching it. Most of the time it would land 10’ or so from where you were waiting!

They spray painted the ball orange or lime green nothing worked, so it just became “part of the game”. This took place from the mid 1940’s until early 1960’s, when the lower softball parks came into being and the golf course took over the upper park a little later.

FELTON PARK for softball on the road into the entrance to Henry Cowell State Park Museum, About a quarter mile in. During the time that softball games were played at the high school football field and the old De Leveaga many locals played here during the week in another league or just practice games.

This was a big trip from Santa Cruz back then. There would be times when a player would have a game in Santa Cruz and after the game make a trip up windy highway 9 to Felton to play another game. The CYA camp had a team in the league and players from as far as Aptos would come to play practice games.

The big draw in the Valley was a traveling team called the Felton “Woodpechers”. It was made up some of the best softball players in the Santa Cruz area.

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