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story.lead_photo.caption View from homeplate of the new baseball field at California High School on April 24. The outfield sod was installed last week. (Democrat photo/Camal Petro) Photo by Camal Petro

CALIFORNIA - Soon the California baseball and softball teams will have a new field to call home. California Athletic Director Rick Edwards is hoping for May 7 - against Jamestown - to be the first home game played on the new, turf field located behind the high school, but he wasn't prepared to make any promises.

While the plans for the field have been around for awhile, the funds weren't available until after other projects were completed and they had money left over.

"As we went through the process of building everything, we didn't run into a lot of rock, which made things cheaper," Edwards said. "We had more money marked for each project than it was going to cost. So at the end, we had money left over. Enough so that we could build most of the field, the turf, the fence, the lighting, but we didn't have enough to finish it."

Prior to moving forward with the field, $4 million was the figure they had to fix and build other things like new buildings at the middle school.

"We had a list of way more than we could afford," Edwards said. "We narrowed it down to what we could afford for the $4 million and baseball was about the last thing that was cut off."

But with money left over, the field was approved to move forward in the construction.

"It was several months ago," Edwards said. "We knew we had an amount of money leftover, and at some school board meetings we said here's some things we can do, then everybody kind of agreed on the baseball field."

Still, the baseball field was going to cost more than what they had leftover. With that news, the softball and baseball booster clubs went to work fundraising the rest of the money. They raised $30,000 for the outfield sod and irrigation system to allow California to play its last couple home games in May and be able to play on it this fall.

"A lot of people were behind it, a lot of people supported it and local businesses too," Edwards said. "Most of the money was raised by selling those ads that are on the outfield fence. So all of that helped complete it so that we could play on it."

Edwards said California Construction donated the scoreboard and Cargill is building a batting cage.

The field features a portable pitcher's mound and a fence will be brought in for softball. The infield turf will help with rain issues. Edwards explains the Pintos can practice and play on the field in just about any type of weather, as long as it's not lightning.

"It's suppose to be able to take 14 inches in an hour," said Edwards. "Away games that get rained out will now become home games. It's not going to be too wet. Our team can practice every day on the infield, so that gives our baseball team an advantage that we didn't have before."

Also, Edwards loves how the field sits below where the bleachers will be placed, calling it a "college feel to the stadium." The bleachers will sit approximately 10 feet above the field level, but there will be a cement area between the bleachers and field for fans that want to bring lawn chairs. That area will be directly behind the home plate, up against the safety screen, and will still sit a couple of feet above the field.

Areas that still needs to be completed are the bathrooms, concessions, press box and storage area, as well as the bleachers.

The baseball field joins the one-year-old football stadium as another on-site facility that boasts California's athletic facilities as one of the best in Class 3 in the state. It will also benefit the players by allowing them to walk to practice, as opposed to traveling across town, which they're forced to do now.

But none of this would have been possible so soon, explained Edwards, if it wasn't for the help from parents, booster club members and people in the community.

"I know that we've had a large group of softball/baseball people that's gone above and beyond what people really need to do. Because of their efforts, we're going to be able to play baseball. Especially for the four seniors, it's exciting for them to play on it.

"John Trachsel has done a tremendous amount of working organizing the construction. I've seen him out here in the morning, in the afternoon and the evening. John has done a lot of work for us and there's a lot of other people who have. It's nice to have those people."