The cry “Play Ball” is being heard throughout the Central Coast.
As the winter sports season draws to a close, local baseball and softball leagues are opening up.
And “Play Ball” is how Dave Garcia kicked off Santa Maria Westside Little League’s 2017 season Saturday with more than 200 people on hand for the christening of the brand new Oakley Park on land that was originally donated by Bobby Dias.
“Everything is new. Nothing is used,” said Garcia, Westside’s president. “We have two new baseball fields – one for Majors and one for Minors, new basketball courts, soccer fields, snack bar, restrooms and playground. It’s all new. The city spent over $1 million.”
Construction began immediately after Westside’s 2016 season, a season in which Westside’s 10-11-year-old All-Stars won the California District 65 championship.
The complex, on North Western just south of the Oakley School, was ready for Saturday’s opening day.
The ceremonies began with Garcia introducing every player, manager, coach and team mom from Westside’s 15 teams. The teams in are in four divisions – Major, Minor, Farm and T-Ball.
The league gave special recognition to two teams – the 2016 Indians, winners of Westside’s Major Division, and the 11-year-old All-Star champions – before the 2017 season kicked off with a game between the Major division Giants and Dodgers, followed by a game from each of the other divisions.
“It’s been 16 years since we won our last district 65 championship,” said champion team mom Melissa Fuentes. “The manager of our 2016 champions was Bob Ferrel. He was also the manager of the team that won the championship 16 years ago.”
Westside also honored two longtime coaches who died in 2016 – Rick Martinez and Sal Mediano.
There was a hot dog lunch for all the teams and the new snack bar was open for business.
Tacos were the days big seller, cooked up hot by President/Chef Dave Garcia.
“We all do more than one thing,” said Garcia as he cooked up and served piping hot tacos to praents and fiends. “I’ve been a coach and manager. I’ve been league president for six years but I’m also part of the field crew and cook here at the snack bar but I have a lot of help. Our board members are great and you’ve got to have a lot of volunteers. I just like helping the kids.”
The regular season runs into June.
“We play just about every day right into the summer,” said Fuentes.
“We play all during the week, we just don’t play on Friday,” said Garcia.
Then the league champions will battle for the Santa Maria City championship.
The city winners then face off against Orcutt’s champions for the Santa Maria Valley championships.
Then All-Star teams are formed for the chase for district, regional, state and national titles.
“That team, those kids right there,” Garcia said pointing to the reigning District 65 champions as they were getting their trophies and picture taken in the infield of the Majors' park during opening ceremonies. “I guarantee you, come All-Stars, we’re gonna do some damage.
“It’s opening day. This is the best place in the world to be.”