One person’s dirt is another’s “Field of Dreams.”
That’s certainly the case at La Entrada Field at Sage Park in Anaheim, where a group of community members gathered together on a recent Saturday morning to pack in some new dirt as well as help spruce up the field with some other housekeeping, including repainting benches, pulling weeds, picking up trash, removing graffiti and fertilizing grass.
“My goal was to get this field to be that ‘decorated house’ we all talk about [at Christmas time],” says Anaheim Police Officer Eric Anderson. “To be that eye-catcher where the youth and parents of this community would want to keep coming back and want to brag about. I wanted this field to be the kids’ ‘Field of Dreams.’”
For several years, the field has been in disrepair due to lack of funding. There has also been an upswing of criminal activity in the area, including vandalism and drug and alcohol use.
Anderson, who is part of Anaheim PD’s Community Policing Team – charged with empowering the community to work together and improve the quality of life in neighborhoods and business districts – learned about the field’s problems last year from concerned citizen Candace Jackson-Michalski.
“The field at Sage Park has been vandalized, consistently used for gang meetings and tagging; drug abuse and drug sales have been conducted on the field, and drug paraphernalia, needles and condoms have been left in the area,” says Jackson-Michalski, whose father, Ernest Jackson, built the field as president and founder of La Palma Little League in 1972.
“I remember when my parents were laying the grass, building the snack stand in the middle of the night trying to get ready for opening day,” Jackson-Michalski says. ”My younger brother played on several teams growing up on that field and … my father took great pride in being the president. He wanted the boys to have a strong foundation and a place to play baseball.”
In response to the recent concerns, Anderson worked with city staff to get multiple fences and gates as well as improved lighting for nighttime games installed in the area. Intent on helping restore the field to its former glory, Anderson was able to arrange a donation of brick dust from Corona Clay Co., which donated half of the 25 tons of dirt (cost: more than $1,000).
Anderson paid for the rest himself.
There was enough dirt left over to help another baseball field in the area – Gonzalez Field – in need of sprucing up.
The Anaheim Hills Home Depot donated five gallons of paint for restoration and Anderson matched that as well.
At the recent work party, the new dirt was delivered and installed on the infield, pitcher’s mound, home plate and base paths.
“The last time this field had dirt was over five years ago — therefore, the field’s dirt was extremely hard and in poor condition,” Anderson says.
La Entrada Field is self-funded, which means it is up to the league to raise money to maintain it, says Julio Munoz, baseball league president for Anaheim Little League.
Keeping up with costs has been a challenge, considering there is no longer a Snack Shack at La Entrada, which is a source of revenue, Munoz says.
He estimates about 90 kids use the field during the regular (between late February to mid-June) and practice seasons (after Labor Day weekend).
“If we have baseball, I think kids will just fall in love (with the sport) and just play instead of doing bad things,” Munoz says.
The project hit close to home for Anderson, whose father, Steve, was well aware of the power of youth sports.
His father, who died after serving nearly two decades as mayor and council member for La Habra, has several baseball fields named after him.
“My family and I were very active in youth sports,” Anderson says. “Noticing a lack of soccer, softball, football and baseball fields in the city, my father decided to run for [La Habra] City Council to help youth stay out of gangs and drugs.
“My father’s take was if the youth had something to do after school like playing sports, they wouldn’t have time to get involved in criminal activity.”