Despite having just earned their sixth National Baseball Congress World Series National Championship, the Santa Barbara Foresters baseball team has no place to play in town.
In 1968, as superintendent of the city recreation department, I addressed the City Council and Planning Commission regarding the state of recreation programs and facilities at the time. We had two aging sports venues — Pershing Park and Laguna Park. Pershing Park was the historic home of men’s and women’s softball, while Laguna acted as the home of the Dodgers’ farm team and the Santa Barbara Foresters. It was also a very important facility for the Recreation Department Youth Baseball Programs. I recommended that the two parks be retained and refurbished. The council wanted to demolish both venues along with Los Baños pool. The pool was later saved by the efforts of aquatic supporters.
Santa Barbara City College in 1962 was slated to expand, but it needed a commitment from the city for some 20 acres and use of municipal facilities. This included the Pershing Park softball field complex, tennis courts, Los Baños pool, La Playa Stadium, and Leadbetter Beach parking. Mutual use and maintenance was to be scheduled to meet the needs of both entities. The agreement was reached in late August 1962 and amended six or seven times since. A necessity in the agreement was a baseball diamond to be built at Pershing Park, which required the removal of the grandstands and a reconfiguration of the fields. It was stated that a softball complex would be built later at Las Positas Park.
The loss of two ball parks at that time seriously affected the Recreation Department youth and adult baseball programs; it was a serious blow to Santa Barbara men’s and women’s softball and any future needs. Obviously, some 46 years later, all we have are memories, due to the City Council’s failed promises.
Las Positas Park (now Elings Park) has the space and the location to develop a ball park with necessary grandstands, lights, and parking; however, it would take time and funding.
A quicker path would be to simply restore the grandstands and lights, and upgrade the baseball diamond at the city-owned Pershing Park, thereby utilizing the Joint Usage Agreement between the city and City College.
Not only would baseball return to Santa Barbara, benefiting the local Youth Baseball program and adult men’s baseball program, but the Santa Barbara Foresters could finally come home.
Bill Bertka was Santa Barbara city recreation director from 1961-1972.