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It is built, now local youngsters coming to play

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Posted: Friday, August 4, 2000 10:00 pm

Jerry Ferdun built it.

Now all he needs is for Kevin Costner to come.

More than two dozen youngsters will walk out of a cornfield and onto a baseball field at 8 o’clock tonight when Ferdun presents the Marie E. Ferdun Field of Dreams All-Star Classic.

The event was partially inspired by Costner’s hit movie, “Field of Dreams.”

More importantly, it was inspired by Ferdun’s mother, Marie, who died last January from Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

“I’m trying to bring attention to these two illnesses, using my love for kids and baseball,” Ferdun said Friday afternoon while watching the ballfield receive a last-minute sprucing up.

Ferdun said his mother loved baseball and enjoyed watching youngsters play the sport. She even got to see a few games played on Ferdun’s “Field of Dreams,” located on the family ranch east of Lodi on Highway 12.

“It just wasn’t in quite as a developed state as it is now,” Ferdun said.

Ferdun built the ballfield in 1997. He was looking for a safe environment for his two sons and other youngsters to play and practice baseball.

“Do you know how hard it is to find fields to practice on?” Ferdun asked, noting nearly all of Lodi’s ballfields are always in use by one team or another.

At the time, a portion of the ranch had just been sold, leaving a small portion located along the road leading to Ferdun’s home. It wasn’t big enough to grow anything and turn a profit, Ferdun said, so he got to thinking — why not build a ballfield?

Ferdun measured the lot and the youth baseball diamond at Blakely Park in Lodi. He found them to be nearly the same size. Soon he had carved a ball diamond out of the earth. The right-field line stretches 228 feet from home plate, center field is 354 feet away, and the left-field line is drawn 253 feet.

“That first year, we played without a backstop,” Ferdun said. Mostly his son’s baseball team practiced at the field and occasionally they would play a practice game against a team from Morada.

In 1998, Ferdun built the backstop which was donated by Rough and Ready Island Naval base in Stockton.

In addition to the backstop, there are team benches behind a dugout fence. Bleachers are located behind the backstop.

At the time the ballfield was built, there was nothing beyond the outfield grass. That got Ferdun to thinking again — why not plant some corn in the outfield, like the movie?

So he did it this year. “It came up well enough this year we decided to stage the game,” Ferdun said.

Not just any game, but an all-star game, and at night.

“I’ve always wanted to play a night game,” Ferdun said. To help him realize his dream, United Rentals donated the use of portable lights, which will illuminate the field tonight.

Ferdun also decided he wanted to invite 11-year-olds to play in his game. “Twelve-year-olds are usually the ones picked for the (city) all-star team,” he said. “Eleven-year-olds usually don’t get much recognition.”

He sent out invitations, based upon coaches’ recommendations. Twenty-seven youngsters responded.

“We want to make this a family affair,” Ferdun said. As a result, entire families have been invited to share in the experience.

At last count, Ferdun said more than 200 guests are expected to appear tonight. In fact, a local photographer has volunteered to take a memorial photo of tonight’s festivities, an aerial shot with the ballplayers and their families lining the outfield in front of the cornfield.

Ferdun also has arranged for commemorative T-shirts to be given to the ballplayers, along with special programs. There will even be hot dogs, popcorn and soft drinks.

Ferdun hopes to make the event an annual one. As his two children, Tyler, 11, and Spencer, 6, get older, he also envisions enlarging the ballfield.

Of course, that will mean plowing under the cornfield. “That will be a real shame,” Ferdun said.

Which is all the more reason to celebrate the “Field of Dreams” now.

“Anyone who knows me knows I was a very difficult kid to raise,” Ferdun said. “I was brutal. But my mom was a saint.”

She would faithfully drive him to games and practices and support him from the bleachers.

“She was my biggest fan when I played, and without her support, I could have never experienced baseball as I did,” Ferdun said in the invitation he sent to prospective players and their parents. “So, on this night, I hope to pay my biggest fan a little respect by letting our kids play baseball on her Field of Dreams.”

Field Of Dreams All-Star Classic roster:

  • Donny Barter
  • Josh Bullock
  • Justin Dibble
  • Troy Diede
  • Anthony Estrada
  • Tyler Ferdun
  • Kenneth Ferguson
  • Ryan Fischer
  • Chapin Fowler
  • Adam Fyffe
  • Steve Galvin
  • Zachary Garcia
  • Phillip Georguson
  • Thomas Goad Jr.
  • Dustin Gorenc
  • Chris Gould
  • Broc Jump
  • Rich Kimmell
  • Daniel Massey Jr.
  • Jordan McCroskey
  • Jeff Merrill
  • Marcus Moreno
  • Pete Murdaca
  • Christopher Ost
  • Kevin Rocha
  • Kevin Sanden
  • Alex Trevino

Coaches:

  • Dale Fischer
  • Robert Fowler
  • Matt Garcia
  • Steve Jump

Bat boys:

  • Spencer Ferdun
  • Michael Rishwain
  • Jack Swimley

Comments about this story? Send mail to Richard Myers

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