With a year at Berkeley High and a rare North Coast Section playoff berth under his belt, varsity baseball coach Tim Moellering knows what it will take for the ’Jackets to be contenders for an Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League title next year. But it’s not pitching, hitting or fielding that concerns him most. It’s the field his team practices and plays on, San Pablo Park.
“Our facilities are the biggest problem we face. We’re not able to determine for ourselves on whether the field is playable,” Moellering says of the public park, which is reserved for the ’Jackets from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays during the season. “It limits our practice time and what we can do during practice. It really puts us at a relative disadvantage.”
Every other team in the ACCAL has at least one on-campus baseball diamond. The Berkeley players have to travel the two miles from their campus to the park for every practice and home game. Berkeley High also has no indoor facility where the team can practice, also a common feature at many local high schools.
One of Moellering’s main complaints about the park is that while the team is often prohibited from using the field on rainy days, there is no actual monitoring force to make sure no one else uses it.
“Most frustrating is that they want to close the grass when the field is wet and muddy, which is understandable,” he says. “But on a couple of days like that, some rogue groups, soccer and rugby players, came out and messed up the field.”
There is a project in the works to put a new field at Derby Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard that would incorporate a baseball diamond. But the use of the land, which is currently the site of Berkeley High’s East Campus, an alternative school, is highly controversial and is under debate in the Berkeley City Council. While some councilmembers support the field project, others want the space used for an expanded farmer’s market. Complicating matters is the fact that for a regulation baseball diamond to fit the space, Derby Avenue would have to be closed down in the area.
Moellering has spent “a few years” supporting the field project, he says, but has seen little progress.
“It’s hard to be optimistic, but we’ll try to make the best of it,” he says. “It’s been very politically polarized, like a lot of things in Berkeley. But a lot of people don’t realize that if we don’t get the new field there, we don’t get one at all.”