By Matt Schwab
'AWESOME' ISLANDERS FIELD A BIG HIT WITH HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: SHOWCASE SET FOR MARCH 27-28Islanders Field in Lathrop is quickly becoming a hotspot for top high school baseball talent.The glistening new ballpark backdropped by the San Joaquin River Delta will host the inaugural Islanders Field High School Showcase on March 27-28. The varsity event has drawn quality teams from Amador Valley, Acalanes, California, College Park, Dougherty Valley, and Livermore."It's awesome," former San Ramon Valley coach Chris deClercq said of the ballpark that has a "Field of Dreams" quality. "It's a place where you're able to draw the best teams, the best competition level, because it's such a great facility. It's something that this area needed. … There's tons of these types of facilities in Southern California, but I think it shows that if you put together a facility like that people are going to want to play there."Not surprisingly, high school teams are lining up to play at Islanders Field, which is preparing to host many more showcases and high school games in the years ahead, including a Spring Break tournament which would feature Northern California and Southern California high school teams.The ballpark hosted a blockbuster game on March 4 when De La Salle, No. 1 ranked nationally in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, beat Elk Grove 5-3. On March 10, the locals packed the place for varsity and junior varsity games between Sierra and Ripon. Sierra won the thrilling varsity contest 7-6 in extra innings.
Fans walking up to Islanders Field in the River Islands community will notice how it draws from retro stadiums such as Oracle Park and Camden Yards. It has a mystical quality at night with lights and the Bradshaw Crossing Bridge nearby. The scene evokes feelings of a Double-A stadium in middle America, with careful planning going into every detail: the dugouts, grandstands, batting cages, concessions, outfield fences backdropped by plants and trees, and the views."The one thing everybody likes is being able to go watch a game at an amazing facility," deClercq said. "I think it's a win-win when you can get a great facility and bring the best type talent in the area, everybody wins. The fans win. The teams win. The community wins. It's kind of a win across the board for everybody. Everybody wants to go play there."Field Director Don Johns, known for his successful Danville HOOTS program, helped usher in Islanders Field last spring. Giants third base coach Ron Wotus is among the ballpark's many supporters: "It was a great idea and it certainly came out gorgeous," Wotus said recently … "Don has done a wonderful job with that facility. He's very proud of it."Nevada state baseball power Reno High, guided by respected coach Pete Savage, planned to participate in the March 27-28 showcase, but his program is caught up in the coronavirus virus fallout and won't be able to travel. Savage knows Johns well through American Legion play and considers him a "great ambassador" of baseball. "I believe him building the stadium along with some of the community helpers has created a future for the game of baseball to thrive in that area," Savage said. "It's a total game-changer because it was done with quality in mind and the development of the players for many generations to come."