Point Loma High School baseball will have a level playing field this season. At the end of September, construction will finish on Phase 1 of a planned two-part upgrade of David Wells Field, just in time to welcome the Pointers' new head coach, David Wells.
Named in honor of the former Major League pitcher and O.B. native back in 2010, Wells Field actually resides at Dana Middle School, where it serves as home field for both the high school and middle school teams. Wells played for Point Loma during high school and has been a major donor since going pro, awarding scholarships to students and auctioning sports memorabilia to contribute proceeds to its sports programs.
When he joined the coaching staff as an assistant two years ago, Wells approached the school board to discuss underwriting improvements to the field bearing his name. By all accounts, the field was in pretty bad shape.
According to PLHS athletic director Alex Van Heuven, heavy wear-and-tear had been a problem for years, resulting in an uneven playing surface that raised safety concerns and hindered quality of play. She says divots in the field resulted in rolled ankles, and that when balls were hit into the infield, "There were a lot of odd bounces."
Wells’s original idea, according to school-board member Scott Barnett, involved a pro-quality grass field. But maintaining such a field proved cost-prohibitive, even before factoring in the current drought conditions.
Fortunately for PLHS, the school district had a source of funds earmarked for making improvements to school sports fields: Proposition Z, the $2.8 billion bond measure passed by voters in 2012. In addition to the repair of classrooms, American Disabilities Act compliance, and removal of hazardous materials, some of the small print of Prop Z–stipulated funds could be used to "Improve and install playfields."
Barnett says the district is in the process of converting about ten school fields and playgrounds per year to turf, and that David Wells Field was due to be upgraded eventually.
Of course, having a hometown sports legend on the coaching staff didn't hurt its chances of being fixed sooner than later. Barnett says that having someone with the stature and history of support of David Wells behind the initial proposal probably made the field "higher in the list than it would have been initially."
So, the plan was revised to include artificial turf with a sand and rubber in-fill, making it relatively impervious to drought, heavy use, and lapses in maintenance that had left the dirt-and-grass field in bad condition in the first place.
Phase 1 of the district-approved plan cost a reported $1.4 million, and also included raising a legitimate outfield fence. This has transformed the awkwardly squared-off 400-foot centerfield to an evenly curved 385 feet, dropping to 375 at the foul lines.
Phase 2 of the upgrade will involve new, shaded dugouts, a press box, bleacher seats, windscreens, and ADA compliance, which will likely include ramp access to the dugouts and a front row of stadium seating including backs and armrests. This phase is still in the design stage, with construction likely at least year away and with no price tag yet set.