Refurbished fields ready for baseball

By David Witte / sports@losbanosenterprise.comMay 30, 2013 

The Seventh Street Ballfields in Los Banos have been given new life.

About 300 Los Banos residents, along with former Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky, Giants mascot Lou Seal and Fresno Grizzlies mascot Parker, dropped in on the facility's re-dedication Tuesday after a $20,000 renovation courtesy of the San Francisco Giants organization and the Jr. Giants, which field a Los Banos league in partnership with the Los Banos Police Activities League.

The Los Banos PAL Junior Giants won the makeover through a six-week facebook contest, going against other Junior Giants leagues in Fresno, Modesto and Hayward, to name a few.

"To be honest, I can't even really describe it, because the way the community (responded) -- and I pitched this at our city council meeting last year when I got an email from the Giants saying we are a finalist," Los Banos PAL officer Noah Jones said. "I said, 'I know how this community works, with rigatoni dinners and drive-thru dinners, people are sick, people in the hospital, everyone comes together and they help out, and they work together to get something like this accomplished.' So I said at that council meeting that night, look, I know how the community is, I think we can do it. I think we can get together and I think we can win. And that's what happened. It was awesome."

The renovation included replacing the crushed-granite dirt in all four of the field's diamonds with clay, infield turf on Field 1 from the same farm that supplies the turf for AT&T Park, repainted buildings and a large banner for the league on one of the buildings.

"I'm a Giants fan. I've always been an A's fan first and a Giants fan second," Los Banos city councilman Tom Faria said. "If the Giants are playing I'll root for them, unless they're playing the A's. This might make me change from green and gold to orange and black."

The Giants' MVP catcher Buster Posey was the face of the contest, and though he was unable to attend the ceremony due to a game that day, he sent a recorded message congratulating Los Banos.

"It's just cool to see how Buster Posey did all of this for all the broken-down fields," Grant Jones, 7, said while resting on the main field's second base after the celebrations.

The Los Banos PAL Junior Giants league was one of 12 inaugural leagues in the Junior Giants program, which began operation in 1994.

Jones said the new field would require a little more hand care from the volunteer grounds crew, which he didn't think would be a problem.

Dravecky, 57, made headlines in 1989 by ending ending his playing career by breaking his pitching arm while throwing. He had made a comeback that year after having a portion of his deltoid muscle removed and the bone treated because of a cancerous tumor. After the break, the cancer returned, leading to the amputation of the arm. He's since become a motivational speaker, and spent most of his time in Los Banos signing everything from shirts to bats for local children.

"You don't know what it means to me to see the community of Los Banos pull together to embrace these kids," Dravecky said during his speech. "Remember who you are in this community as you affect these kids and who they are."

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

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