Padres announce plans for Little Padres Parks

September 26, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

About five years ago Major League Baseball asked that all big league teams build six Little League baseball fields in their surrounding areas to get in touch with the people of the community.

The San Diego Padres decided to take that number up a notch, well more like 54 notches, as they decided to build 60 Little Padres Parks in and around San Diego County.

On Tuesday, members of the Padres officially announced that a little bit of the Padres will be brought to the Imperial Valley as four El Centro Little League fields will be refurbished and made into Little Padres Parks.

"El Centro is an important community in the Padres' region," said Padres Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Charles Steinberg. "We want to intensify our efforts to demonstrate our high level of affection for this town and this project is a start. … We are eager to see children enjoy these and other safe, clean ballfields."


Frazier and Sunflower fields will be the sight of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Little Padres Parks, which will see construction begin in late October.

According to Tim Katzman, special assistant to the president of the Padres, the fields will only take about two and a half to three weeks to build. Each field will include palm trees — like those at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego — manual scoreboards and "landscaping intended to inspire big-league dreams in the players of all ages and ability levels who use them."

Said El Centro Mayor Cheryl Walker: "This is truly a remarkable event for the Valley. The Padres' efforts make this an even better place to live."

With 16 sites already built in San Diego areas such as Lakeside, Oceanside, Temecula, National City and even Tijuana, vice president of Hispanic and international marketing Enrique Morones said the Imperial Valley was a natural addition to this project.

"We feel that this is Padre territory. We have lots of fans from this area who come out and watch games. And we just have a lot of natural ties. We just want to be recognized as the team of the Valley," said Morones. "We know that the Imperial Valley is a strong Latin community. And the Padres organization is one that really reaches out to Latin fans, almost more than any other organization."

The main reason Morones points to for the Padres Parks is the children involved in Little League.

"We want to give kids a safe place to play, have a comfortable setting and just make this a first-class opportunity for them."

Picking up the tab for the fields will be corporate and local sponsors such as Coca-Cola, TruGreen Landcare, West Coast Turf and Hunter Industries. Because the project is paid for by sponsors, local taxpayers will not have to spend a dime on the fields.

Seemingly reaping the benefits of the parks is the El Centro Elementary School District, which owns both fields.

Said El Centro School District Superintendent Michael Klentschy: "This is a good opportunity for the city of El Centro, the school district and the Padres to work together. We (the city of El Centro and the school district) had talked in the past about providing recreational opportunities for the children of the community. And we do feel this is a good opportunity for them."

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