WATSONVILLE—Pajaro Valley High senior Elvia Rodriguez along with members of the Grizzlies’ softball team finally got a chance to test out their new field.
Last week, the team held a private ribbon cutting ceremony and gave a toast with a glass of Martineli’s Sparkling Cider to celebrate the grand re-opening of the sports complex on campus.
“Now we get to say we have a place to call home,” Rodriguez said.
The Grizzlies got a chance to toss the ball around and get a feel for the new terrain that will be their home field for years to come.
Grizzlies senior Alondra Contreras said the new softball field is much better than any other field she’s seen in the area. And now that the sports complex is ready to go, she hopes they can attract more students to play sports, especially softball.
“It’s going to be way better,” she said.
Grizzlies coach Shelley Chavez believes that it’s the most best complex on the Central Coast. She said that getting the fields installed is a huge step for girls who play softball within the county.
“The fact that the girls get this, it’s so deserved,” she said. “All high school athletes work really hard but a lot of the times the softball fields are one of the last fields looked at.”
The new softball diamond is a major upgrade from the previous field and the Rolling Hills Middle School diamond, which the Grizzlies used while the new field was being built. Rodriguez said the weeds within the infield prevented them from being able to slide. Contreras recalls the outfield being a nightmare to field the balls.
“The balls would go up and it would hit our face,” Contreras said.
When construction for the new field was taking place, both players still had the frightening thought that the Covid-19 pandemic would ruin their senior year.
Contreras said that the team had doubts of being able to play at least one game on its new field.
“We still needed to continue as a team and stay strong,” she said.
They might get to play a season after all. The county is expected to move into the third-least restrictive tier in the state’s four-tier, colored-coded system on March 31.
However, the Grizzlies’ program might still be in jeopardy. As of now, Chavez has at least seven girls that show up on a daily basis but they need to get more names on the roster in order to compete.
Pajaro Valley along with Watsonville High, St. Francis High and Monte Vista Christian were invited to play in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League for this season.
She was told by other coaches in Santa Cruz County that they’re also having trouble with participation in the sport. Chavez wonders if students are still fearful of Covid-19 or perhaps it’s hard for them to get a ride to the school.
“If we don’t have enough players we might just scrimmage or do pick-up games just to let them play,” Chavez said.
High school coaches within the county have a zoom meeting on March 25 to discuss the lack of participation along with scheduling and anything related to the state’s Covid-19 youth sports guidance. Tryouts are scheduled for April 5 and the first game of the season is a week later on April 13.
Aptos High coach Phil Rojas said they expect to have an 18-game season and he’s fine with whatever they can get at this point of the year.
The Mariners have had anywhere from 15-20 girls show up to volunteer workouts.
“I’m ready to play today,” he said.
Rojas said that he’s been playing the role of psychologist by trying to guide them mentally in positive ways. He mentioned there’s always the thought of players contracting Covid-19 and whether or not that will end the season. Then there’s going back to the lack of participation for volunteer workouts.
“It’s always borderline sometimes about having JV programs but when you have a varsity program that’s borderline, it’s like ‘what’s going on?’” Rojas said.
Chavez has been putting out the word that they need more players but has not received a strong response. She figured the new field was going to attract more players to join the team, but the students are not on campus, making it harder for them to show up.
Chavez said perhaps they’re intimidated by the new field, but she assures newcomers that they’re still the same team that wants to have fun by playing hard.
“I do really hope that being that we’re on campus now for training and the new complex is open, the girls will be like, ‘Yeah, I want to go play on that field,’” she said.