As a longtime major leaguer, Danny Duffy has grown accustomed to playing baseball under the lights.
But, the Cabrillo High grad says, a dream of his has long been to bring light to his alma mater’s baseball diamond.
Now that he’s able to make that dream a reality, he’s charted a path to actually make it happen.
Duffy has made a $1 million commitment to bring lights to the Conquistadores' baseball field.
The starting pitcher for the Kansas City Royals says he’s worked with a contractor to come up with a proposal and the project plans have been sent to Lompoc Unified School District. Duffy says the plans were sent to Sacramento for various approvals, though he's not received much communication from the district on the status of the project.
“We’ve been working on this for a minute," Duffy said from spring training in Arizona. "I got Musco Lighting on the horn and was just feeling it out. I committed to it during the quarantine last year and the turnaround time with all the construction would typically be six weeks. (The plans) have got to sit on a desk for three months and they sift through the permit stuff. Once it's sent back to the district, it’s pretty much set.”
Duffy said he had hoped to have the project done by this summer, but is now shooting for later this fall.
"I think we have a definite possibility of this being completed by the time November or December rolls around," he said. "There’s always little things that pop up with regards to the regulations, permits and rules."
It is an extensive project with myriad Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. A lighted walkway from the student parking lot will need to be built as well as ADA compliant bathrooms. There also needs to be adequate lighting in the bleachers due to liability concerns.
Duffy says light pollution is of minimal concern due to the units used by Musco Sports Lighting, which direct light toward the field of play.
Multiple attempts to reach the district for more information on the status of the project were unsuccessful last week. Messages left for LUSD superintendent Trevor McDonald and operations and maintenance manager Sam Blanton were not returned Wednesday or Thursday of last week. LUSD emailed replies to a list of questions Sunday night. A story updating how the process of adding the lights will play out will be published this week.
Duffy had hoped to make more progress with this project by now.
"We had the same answers we had in November that we had yesterday," Duffy said, questioning whether a similar project would take this amount of time if it were for the Lompoc High campus.
"We’ve seen a lot happen on their campus there. An idea pops in their mind, they go with it and it happens," Duffy said. "It's not the same energy for Cabrillo.”
The lefty says Cabrillo baseball coach Cole Osborne, athletic director Gary West, his parents Dan and Deanna have all been supportive in making this project a reality. Chris Hailey from Musco Sports Lighting has been the lead on the development side.
"We’ve all been grinding on this for awhile, they’ve all been very helpful," Duffy said of his group. "Like they say, 'It's only crazy until you do it.'"
Duffy has wanted to bring lights to Cabrillo's diamond since he was a child.
“To be honest, I’ve wanted to do this since I was 10. I even drew a picture of what it would look like,” he said. “My mom might still have the picture.”
Duffy said there’s plenty of benefits to adding lights to the field.
“Everybody wants to play night games,” he said. “The school will get game requests and can hold tournaments. People will be shopping at our shops, they'll come up when we host tournaments with more than two games a day. Kids will have something, that’s a permanent legacy.
“This will last a long time and will benefit not only Cabrillo, but the whole valley.”
Duffy said having Lompoc and Cabrillo playing each other under the lights would be historic.
“This is something that’s a passion project, man. I don’t intend on walking away from this,” Duffy said. “I mean Kobe (Bryant) said it best, 'The most important thing is how your career and life impacts the next generation.’ This is a legacy thing, I’ve poured my whole heart and soul into this. Lompoc and Cabrillo playing under the lights on a Friday night, that would be beautiful for both schools.”
Duffy has made various contributions to his former high school over the years. In 2019, he paid for the Cabrillo baseball team to travel to Kansas City for a week of games and touring the city.
The former Conquistadore said he hopes investing in the Lompoc Valley's youth will be his most lasting impact. He relayed the story of meeting Ryan Church, a Lompoc High grad who played in the majors, and how it inspired him.
"Ryan said like three sentences to me and it was enough," Duffy said. "I came home, I put a backpack on, put some bricks in the backpack from my mom's garden and ran laps around the Village. I decided at that point that was where my commitment was going to be. Ryan Church gave me some time, that inspired me. That would really be cool if doing this lit a fire under anybody. No matter the resources, it's all about providing something better for the youth in Lompoc, man."