Photos by Samantha Bengtson
The Gallardo Family and Soledad city staff cut the ribbon for Jesse Gallardo Park. Below, Ernest and Jesse Gallardo share a hug after the ribbon cutting; and Soledad-Mission Recreation District’s Frances Bengtson throws the first softball pitch.
SOLEDAD — Softball and baseball games can now call Jesse Gallardo Park home as the park reopened with two softball fields and one baseball field April 7. Saturday morning was the ribbon cutting on the modernized park that will serve both softball and baseball players and is located in the center of city.
The modernization cost $2.3 million to complete, which was designed by Ballenger and Foster Firm with contractor Sansone Construction and construction management Harris and Associates. The project was overseen by Public Works Director Donald Wilcox.
The project experienced one delay from PG&E. The park was set to open in October, but due to power problems it was delayed until February and open for use in April.
The park is named after Jesse Gallardo, also known as “Mr. Baseball.” Gallardo threw the first baseball pitch and cut the ribbon with his son Ernest “Ernie” Gallardo, who has been a coach at Greenfield High School for 13 years.
“Sports may not be the solution to what our youth is going through now, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Ernie. “Anything we can do for our youth to promote health, doing the right thing, keeping them off the streets. I commend the City of Soledad for doing something like this.”
The modernization of Jesse Gallardo Park was approved by a previous city council, including Mayor Fred Ledesma, Richard Perez, Pat Stevens, Chris Bourke and Alejandro Chavez.
“Without people like Jesse Gallardo, things like this would have never happened in Soledad,” Ledesma said. “Jesse Gallardo has done more for baseball in Soledad than probably any person that ever lived in Soledad or will ever live in Soledad.”
Soledad Little League has 21 teams this year in six divisions and 217 players, according to League President Mario Mottu.
“The timing of these fields couldn’t have happened soon enough,” Mottu said. “Over the last two years as president, I have watched our little league outgrow our field space.”
The addition of the two softball fields also brings a change to girls softball in Soledad. Previous to the fields at Jesse Gallardo Park, the softball players of Soledad-Mission Recreation District went to the Soledad High School softball fields for Saturday games for the past 10 years.
“For 10 years our girls and their families have been hiking up to the high school fields, hidden from view and this is not where our girls in this community deserve to be,” said Executive Director Frances Bengtson. “Finally they can play here in the center of town, where the entire community can see them. They can celebrate them, cheer them on. This is where they deserve to be, right here playing next to the boys.”
Bengtson threw the first pitch for girls softball after Mayor Pro-Tem Alejandro Chavez threw the second pitch for baseball.
In addition to the fields, the park now has lights on the two softball fields, new scoreboards donated by Dole Fresh Vegetables, areas to sit and landscaping surrounding it.