When the Santa Maria Valley Packers changed direction and moved to John Osborne Field on the campus of Allan Hancock College for the 2011 summer season, there was an opening at Historic Elks Field in downtown Santa Maria.
Since the 1940s, there has not been a summer at Elks without some sort of wood bat semi-pro or collegiate baseball being played.
With the prospect of not having any games at that level next summer, Randy Musumeci, longtime board member of the Santa Maria Baseball Club and owner of the Pitchout indoor batting cages, decided to fill that void.
After having several wood bat tournaments at Elks this fall, Musumeci will be throwing his hat — or baseball cap — into the ring.
Recently Musumeci unveiled plans for the Santa Maria Reds, an under-21 summer wood bat baseball team that will play at Elks in 2011.
"Right now we have booked 25 home games at Elks Field starting on opening day, which will be Friday, June 10 with a three game series against the California Wahoos," Musumeci said recently in an interview at the Sunset Ridge Golf Course Restaurant. We will be hosting the Easton Elite, the East LA Dodgers, the Rangers out of Ventura, possibly the Fresno Cardinals and hopefully the Packers might fit us into their schedule."
The plan is to play Thursdays through Sundays when Elks Field is available.
"Most of our games will begin between 5:30 and 6:15 p.m.," Musumeci said. "We will have a few Wednesday games and weekends we will play at 1:00 or 3:00 p.m."
Musumeci also said he will be working closely with Vince Sagisi of the Wahoos in scheduling games.
"He will have some home games at Elks as well," he explained. "So he might have a game in the afternoon and we'll have one at night on the same day.
"We want the best use out of Elks, which is good for people in the area because they can watch a doubleheader featuring four different teams."
The Reds will be an off-shoot of the successful Santa Maria Baseball Club, which was started by Rob Dulay in 2000. The club features teams ranging from U18 to 11 year olds.
"The Santa Maria Baseball Club is sort of the mother ship in the organization," explains Musumeci, who has been with the club since 2002. "The Reds will be a unique offspring of the club. We will be under the fundraisers, but will operate on our own."
The Reds will have their own separate board of directors with Musumeci as the general manager. The team has already named a field manager.
"Robert Gauna, who for many years has been in the Santa Maria Babe Ruth, will be our manager," Musumeci said. "He has our U18 team right now.
"His demeanor is perfect for this gig — he has a firmness with the guys but gets their respect."
The team is currently looking at several prospects to fill coaching and operation positions in the organization.
One of the questions that will be asked of the Reds will be if there are enough players in the area who will be good enough to compete at this level.
"I don't think there is a question of getting players," Musumeci said. "With the Santa Maria Baseball Club, we have seen 400 to 500 kids that have gone through there.
"And there are probably 15 strong in the club that are qualified to play right now."
Knowing it will take money to operate the ball club, Musumeci has some ideas for fundraising. The former rock drummer and concert promoter from the Bay Area, has several promotional ideas brewing.
"The Reds will be throwing a nice dinner-dance sometime in January," he explained. "And we will have some nice promotions on game days as well.
"We have been successful in fundraising and we will go door-to-door to drum up support."
Musumeci is convinced that there is a place in town for his team and that they will be able to compete.
"We'll be competitive and we hope people will come out," Musumeci said. "We hope when the other local teams like the Wahoos come to play everyone will want to come out, get a bag of peanuts and watch some good baseball.”