11/24/2003 3:36 PM ET
Field of dreams becomes a reality
Field dedication photo gallery
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Three years ago, Juan Reyes, a police officer in San Jose and a commissioner for the San Jose Police Athletic League affiliate of Junior Giants, had a vision. He saw a rundown field at Selma Olinder Elementary School and thought it could be transformed into a beautiful baseball diamond for the kids of his community.
On Friday, Reyes saw his vision become real as the Giants Community Fund and the Good Tidings Foundation dedicated the beautiful renovated field, the seventh one the two groups have transformed in the last five years.
"This is truly a dream come true," said Reyes. "It's actually three years in the making, from when we first submitted the pictures of the barren dirt and an old backstop and a lot of gophers and so forth, and to see it today is just phenomenal. This is awesome."
Children from Olinder Elementary packed the infield during a ceremony featuring special guests from the Giants, the Community Fund, Good Tidings, the school district, the city and presenting sponsor Applied Materials, the first corporate sponsor of a field renovation. The diamond will be available for the school's use, as well as the San Jose PAL and other Junior Giants players, After School All-Stars and the San Jose Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services.
"It's amazing what groups of dedicated people can do for our young people, and it makes me feel very heartened in a time of very tough budgets and not a lot of money to help our educational system grow strong," said Dr. Linda Murray, the superintendent of the San Jose Unified School District. "[When] we have partners out there who join hands with us every day ... miracles like this can happen."
The children waved signs giving thanks for the new field -- master of ceremonies Jon Miller especially liked "Gracias por el parque maravilloso" -- and listened to speeches from several of the project partners and special guests. The kids also took a pledge to take care of the new park, delivered several thank-you speeches of their own and sang a rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in both Spanish and English. Applied Materials executive vice president Joe Bronson brought books for all of the children as well as small plastic boxes containing dirt from the new field, which sports the same type of grass used at Pacific Bell Park.
"Are we the luckiest school in the whole, wide world?" said principal Janice Samuels. "This is awesome. We have been waiting for this day for one full year. ... Boy, we came in last September and I got a phone call saying, 'You know, we could have a park built there in that field where all the gophers are hanging out,' and we just said, 'Hey, come on, let's do it for our students.'
"And everybody just got on the team and did what they had to do to make it happen and we're sitting here today. That is just awesome. So again, I welcome all of our guests and thank you from the bottom of our hearts."
Junior Giants, established in 1994 and honored by the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame as the "Best Single Program" run by a professional sports team, serves more than 9,000 children in areas that tend to be underserved by traditional youth baseball programs. The non-competitive, non-fee program uses baseball to stress self-esteem, education, teamwork and leadership.
The field, which Good Tidings founder Larry Harper called "by far the nicest field we've ever built," will be part of an eventual 10 1/2 acre park being developed next to the school, said city councilwoman Cindy Chavez. That was great news to Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti, a San Jose native.
"I was a little kid, like you were, playing over in elementary school towards the Almaden side of town," said Righetti. "We used to come over here and all the fields used to be cement, so anytime you came downtown, you never had a chance to play on grass fields. Not only is this a grass field, this is much better than my high school field I played on, believe me. This is a beautiful place.
"We love you and we care about you and we want you guys to grow up big and strong and be able to enjoy your lives."
Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
By Chris Shuttlesworth / MLB.com