Collegiate baseball summer league makes pitch to Council for Harding Park
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula City Council
Published: February 15, 2013
The founder of a baseball summer team made a pitch to the City Council to make Santa Paula’s Harding Park home to the SoCal Halos team, a pending member of the nonprofit California Collegiate League (CCL).
Founded in 1994, the league is a collegiate summer baseball league headquartered in Carpinteria associated with the National Baseball Congress.
Christopher Gomez of Santa Paula told the council at the February 4 meeting that he has a long resume of coaching a variety of sports to Santa Paula youth, including at the high school. Last year he founded the SoCal Halos; Gomez said his advisor is former major league pitcher and now coach Jim Colborn, a native Santa Paulan who the high school’s baseball field was named in honor of.
The Halos has “about 100 members and the unique opportunity to play” in the collegiate league, one of the best in the nation. Santa Paula, with its soon be completed renovation of Harding Park, would be an ideal location for the team, and the summer team “would bring lots of kids and the community together... I think,” Gomez added, “it would be a win-win.”
Colborn told the council the CCL is one of the top three such leagues in the nation. “The community puts them up” when players are hosted by local families, and Colborn said such contact leads to “the city’s own team.”
Colborn said he believes such a partnership “is a unique opportunity for the city” that would have positive impacts. “I endorse what they are doing, they’re highly respected” by those in professional baseball, he added.
CCL Commissioner Pat Burns presented the council with a letter from Mike Scioscia, former catcher and longtime manager of the Los Angeles Angels, who is also involved in the CCL team in Thousand Oaks. “He and Jim,” said Burns, “are great resources for all things baseball.” Burns said Harding Park and its renovation is “really exciting” for a true “community field” and a great venue for a summer team.
Burns introduced Bill Pintard, president of the league’s Santa Barbara Foresters and a resident of Carpinteria, who told the council his coaching career included games played at Harding Park. When Gomez approached him about the Halos and the possibility of being based at the highway visible Harding Park, Pintard said, “I got excited about it.... What a great place” for league players, many who started out as “summer sons” to host families and later become professionals.
Santa Barbara Foresters are deeply involved with Hugs for Cubs, an organization founded in 1995 by Eric Pintard, a club pitcher who died of cancer. Foresters visit cancer stricken children in hospitals and take them to baseball games and camps, among other activities, to let them know they have a whole team behind them.
Pintard said he is also a strong supporter of Boys & Girls Clubs: “There’s a history here,” he said of Harding Park. “It’s not a plastic field; it has character there,” and the adjacent Boys & Girls Clubhouse would present the opportunity for players to act as role models for Club Kids.
Council members asked various questions, including the length of the season, number of games, costs and facility needs among others. The Halos would like to take to Harding Park’s Thomas Moore Field in June 2013, and Gomez said, “The ultimate goal for me” is that the SoCal Halos would soon be the hometown team the Santa Paula Halos.
Mayor Ralph Fernandez said the idea is “very exciting,” and he encouraged Gomez to work with city staff for a future report on the feasibility of the proposal.