Pro players join in rally for ‘Field of Dreams’

Proposed Canyon Crest Academy project needs funds

Canyon Crest Academy coaches and parents pitched the idea Jan. 28 of bringing a baseball and softball complex to their school. They even brought in a real closer to send the message home: Major League Baseball’s all-time saves leader and former San Diego Padres player Trevor Hoffman.

No “Hells Bells” entrance was needed for Hoffman to take command of the room and say how important it is for players to have a field in which they can take pride.

“When they feel proud, they feel better about playing for the name on the front of their jersey than they do the name on the back,” Hoffman said.

The CCA Baseball and Softball Strategic Visionary Group is looking for corporate and individual support to help fund an estimated $1.5 million to $1.9 million “Field of Dreams” project. The group held an informational meeting Jan. 28 at the Hilton Garden Inn to spread the word about its goals.

“We want to have the best facility, the best team and the best kids in San Diego County,” baseball coach Ryan Sienko said.

Although Canyon Crest has one of the largest gyms in the state of California and “top notch” tennis courts, the baseball and softball fields have never been given much attention. Currently, both the softball and baseball fields have “austere” dugouts, as parent John Kay calls them. There is not enough room for all the players to sit on the bench. The backstops are domed in a community park style, which limits the catcher’s ability to make plays on pop-ups, and there isn’t a proper setback from home plate.

The fields also have no fencing or lighting, which limits both practice time and the length of games. Fans are without restrooms or a scoreboard to keep them in the game.

Plans for the new complex aim to right those wrongs by adding fencing, a scoreboard, new backstops, lighting, a snack bar and scoring box, restrooms and covered dugouts with locker rooms, much like those at Torrey Pines High School.

Canyon Crest Academy Principal Brian Köhn said it makes sense to him to finish the job.

“Athletics are just as important as anything that goes on at the school,” Köhn said. “Right now, it’s a piece missing from the picture.”

Lynch and Sienko said players in the program are the epitome of student athletes.

“None of these kids are even in danger of getting a ‘C,’ ” Sienko said.

At the meeting, the CCA group brought in guest speakers Hoffman, softball player and former San Diego State coach Sara Hayes, and former Major League pitcher Kirk McCaskill, whose son attends Canyon Crest. All three spoke of their fond memories on the ball field throughout their careers and how the game can produce strong individuals on and off the diamond.

“I’m a big believer in CCA,” McCaskill said. “It provides the best opportunity for a well-rounded education, it should include quality athletics.”

Sienko actually met Hoffman when he coached Hoffman’s 8-year-old son in Little League last year.

Hoffman said that while his son could hang out with Tony Gwynn or meet All Star first baseman Prince Fielder (Hoffman’s teammate on his new team, the Milwaukee Brewers), his son’s eyes were never wider than when sitting in the dugout in front of Sienko.

“You’re very lucky to have this man leading your kids,” Hoffman said.

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