Recreational Parks: The Home of Athletic Talent and Competition

A park is a beautiful thing. It goes through the seasons with grace and ease as it sheds the colors of the previous months. It stands as a place of sanctuary and peace, blocking the city sounds of cars, buses and sirens. It contains childhood memories, family reunion photo-ops and a jogger’s moment of zen. A park, whether it be Central Park or in South Central, L.A., is a beautiful thing.

However, some people never had a park to be a part of as a child. Sad? Maybe. But understandable? Definitely. My reasoning for that? Parks are the stage for young athletes and not everyone had that opportunity. It is for that reason that I appreciate and covet a good park as much as possible. And as an athlete, the parks I grew up on were the breeding ground for my introduction into sports.

Therefore, those parks I grew up on do not merely have seasonal changes in their appearance. As the trees, flowers and grass that make up a park’s organic structure change with the seasons, so does the athletic attire of the kids scrambling about its open fields. In the fall, as brown leaves from the trees hit the ground, shin-guards on miniature legs and soccer cleats on size four feet tear up the grass. Then as the leaves curl back into the tree branches, Nike kicks are laced up and screech across black- tops for basketball practice. And finally as the shades of springtime green start to flood the previously bare branches, bats start to hit practice grounders to kids with tiny plastic gloves learning the American pastime.

A park stands as the host of a young athlete’s development. It may not hit you right now as you read this, but just take a jog in any family-based community in the United States today and you will see six-year-olds trying to figure out how to see a pop-fly under their new baseball hat. You will see six dads scattered about a make-shift baseball diamond, only two of whom are the actual coaches. You will see the early moments in a kid’s athletic career. But the key is to watch for a few minutes and wait for a memory to come back of you. That is when your realization of how important a park was to you will come.

As Irvine students, we have such amazing facilities at the ARC and our leisure time is spent with friends at pubs, apartments or (dare I say) libraries, that we do not have a need for parks anymore. Sure, Aldrich Park has hosted numerous naps and an occasional concert. But by no means is it a place of athletic endeavors. Therefore, our most intrinsic memories of a park are most likely those of our childhood where we played youth sports.

With that said, I would like to propose something to the entire student body of UC Irvine. Considering we are past our glory years of conventional park use for fun, we must now look to an alternative to get that fix of open space and sanctuary in an athletic setting. That alternative resides just behind the Mesa Court Parking Structure.

Anteater Ballpark is truly an amazing experience that elicits the youthful desire to be a part of sports. And it is waiting for the students of UCI to floods its grassy hill.

Upon plopping yourself on the freshly cut grass, you will immediately appreciate the park for what it is — a breeding ground for amazing athletes to push their talent to the next level. The facility is an aesthetic monument to collegiate baseball, but it simply feels good to be there. The food is amazing and big game atmosphere is breathtaking. The ballpark feels comfortable. It allows the fans a chance to get away from “humdrum” Irvine and take part in a growing tradition that is UCI baseball.

It is the only athletic facility on campus that is used by one team and for that reason a sense of connection is felt directly with the players on the field. It is where they rep’ UCI and your presence makes it known that their effort is well worth it.

So I ask you, UCI sports fans, dive into the feelings of loving a stretch of fresh grass and make your adulthood home park Anteater Ballpark.