GLENDALE — Five members of the Crescenta Valley High community urged the Glendale Unified School District board of education to collaborate with the city of Glendale to help restore Stengel Field to game shape for the upcoming 2014 baseball season Tuesday evening.
Those five — a pair of CV students, parents and a Falcons graduate — also shared their personal stories of Stengel Field and what it means to them, not only with the board, but a the packed room.
"Stengel Field, to me, is a place that not only creates dreams, but a place that makes them come true. I know for a fact that if not for this ballpark I would not be where I ended up," said Trevor Bell, a former Crescenta Valley baseball phenom who's currently in the Cincinnati Reds organization. "Still, I would give it all back — all of it — to keep Stengel Field how it is and how it once was when I was playing there. My point is, there are places and things that make people happy and keeps them motivated. Stengel Field, to me, is one of those places. I've had some of my greatest memories there."
There were more than 100 people in attendance and it was standing room only, as they lined up along the walls and spread out into the hall, to show support for a resolution between the city and district on the care of Stengel. Many in the crowd wore Crescenta Valley High or shirts, as the field is used as the home of the Crescenta Valley baseball team, along with Glendale Community College and Glendale Angelenos baseball.
While the school board thanked the community for its input and support, no decision was made on Stengel Field because the matter wasn't on the night's agenda, but will be at the Sept. 17 meeting, Glendale Unified Superintendent Richard Sheehan said.
"We are in conversations with the city and [Glendale Community College], so we are surprised to see you here tonight, but you're always welcome to come and give your comments," Sheehan said before the meeting got underway.
The main concern raised was about getting the field's seating ready for the upcoming season. As of now, only the first two rows of the stands are usable, the rest are fenced off. The city discovered the bleachers were not up to code and began discussing the possibility of handing the management of the field over to the school district.
It was that matter that tabled a vote on a memorandum of understanding between the city and district, which would have put the district in charge of maintenance, operation and management of Stengel, at the June 18 board meeting. That memorandum will return to the board Sept. 17.
While no action was going to be accomplished Tuesday, the quintet went ahead with speeches.
"Stengel Field has been my second home for the 18 years I've been on this earth," said Crescenta Valley High senior Joe Torres, son of Falcons baseball Coach Phil Torres, in his practice football jersey and leg pads after going to the meeting right after football practice. "I'm one of the lucky few to experience the true beauty of playing a Friday night at Casey Stengel Field.
"The field needs our city and district to partner together to restore Stengel to the beautiful field it once was."
Like Torres, the topic brought student-athletes straight from practice, parents right from work and, in Bell's case, right from the airport just two days after he was bumped up from double-A to the triple-A level in Louisville.
For Crescenta Valley baseball parent Kasper Wang, his family would have likely never been associated with the Falcons if not for Stengel.
"It's the major reason why many of us opted to have our kids to go to CV High," Wang said. "My wife and I had an option, my son got into Loyola and got into St. Francis and we could have sent him there, but we took a leap of faith with coach Torres, took a leap of faith with Stengel Field, which was and in very many ways still is a very idyllic place for kids to play ball. But we need a place for people to watch them and we need your help."
Glendale Unified's board thanked those in attendance for sharing and urged them to spread their message at Glendale City Council and Glendale Community College board meetings.
Board member Greg Krikorian remarked on how impressive it was to see the CV community come together, but also reminded them it won't be easy to take over Stengel from the city. Nor should the district make a rash decision in the process.
"We can't buy a money pit," said Krikorian, who added if the district did take over Stengel it would "hopefully" be used by the Glendale and Hoover high baseball teams, "I can't buy something that's going to be a financial liability to us.
"We want to help your kids, yes we want to do it, but we have 26 to 27,000 kids we're responsible for. We have to make a very educated decision on this. I know CV can make it happen, we can unite the Glendale and Hoover community across the board, make it a field for Glendale and La Crescenta and fight for our kids — there's a lot we can do."
Like the community speakers, board member Mary Boger shared her personal experience with Stengel, as she would go to her son's baseball games and never sat in the first two rows.
"It's my favorite field, too, because it's so beautiful and it's lovely and it's so fun and exciting to watch your son hit a ball over that fence and watch it disappear into the wash," Boger said. "I do believe Stengel Field is the jewel in the crown of Glendale parks and recreation and, as a community, we need to restore it to its original glory."