Mendocino Stories


Friendship Park

Friendship Park Memories

. . . I stopped by Friendship Park the other day before heading home. The weather was perfect and it was very nostalgic to see the players and coaches on the field. Many supportive families and friends in the stands, a few were on their laptops, some on the phone and all were happy to be there.

. . . There was a “Minor League”, now known as Under 12, game going on that evening, with 9 to 11 year-olds. I sat next to a dad who started a conversation about our kids and I told him that my son played in the first game at the Park. Actually, he had assisted in a triple play that game. A proud mom remembers this stuff.

. . . There were a few facts about those days of Friendship Park that the dad didn't know, including the fact that every major league baseball team had sent a handful of dirt from their infields to be spread over the pitcher's mound. The villagers of Miasa, Japan sent a handful, too.

. . . We operated the “Home Plate Café” during every game, serving popcorn, hot dogs and other ballpark fare, with huge help from volunteers. There were two games each evening and more on Saturdays. The announcer’s booth was open, with some of the ballplayers announcing the game and running the electronic scoreboard that sits at center field. I remember those incredibly cold days in the wind, with moms huddled up together with blankets.

. . . Sigh – no wonder I felt nostalgic being there.

Pattie DeMatteo 6/14/11

The Story of Friendship Park

. . . “Friendship Park is a tribute to the tenacity of a group of dedicated baseball fans who have worked long hours and overcome many obstacles.”

. . . On Sunday April 18, 1993, Mendocino Little League celebrated Opening Day at Friendship Park. This was the culmination of a nearly five-year-long voluntary effort by hundreds of members of the Mendocino community, baseball enthusiasts across the country and people from as far away as Mendocino’s sister city, Miasa, Japan.

. . . Now on the sandlot, there were new plantings of trees and shrubs along the parks’ entry paths and surrounding picnic area. The structures themselves were astounding. The visionary builders had built a monument in the form of sunken dugouts, bleachers, a concession stand (Home Plate Café), and announcer’s booth.

. . . We will have to go back to the Mendocino Youth Ballpark Association breakfast meetings in 1989 to see the beginning discussions. At this time the school district was in the process of trying to determine the best future use for the site. The field had actually been used by the school district as a baseball field for nearly 100 years before it was abandoned in the early 1970s, due to the new earthquake standards for the Middle School. The group was encouraged to form a non-profit organization and submit a plan to the Mendocino Unified School District, the owners, and the Recreation District, the tenants.

. . . Much of the next year was spent ordering studies and processing permits to satisfy government requirements, and writing complex agreements between the school district, the Recreation district, and the newly formed Mendocino Youth Ballpark Association. The fundraising began. “The Mother of Them All” Yard Sale was born.

. . . A decision was made early on by the members of the Board to build not just a field, but a first class park that would beautify the town and inspire future generations. Field requirements were researched by calling the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giant’s grounds keepers. In an historic first, samples of dirt were gathered from all the major stadiums around the country and Canada to sprinkle at home plate during Opening Day ceremonies. Miasa sent dirt from three playing fields.

. . . By 1990, the original breakfast gang expanded. Fourth of July groundbreaking ceremonies were held when the mayor of Miasa, Japan joined and presented the building fund with a $1000 dollar donation. Grass was planted that year and the first games were played on the new field at another Fourth of July gala in 1991. It was the following year that enough funds were raised and the decision was made to finish the job by building the bleachers, backstop, dugout, and the other facilities.

. . . A major step in raising the money for this final effort was the sale of plaques, raising over $40,000. An incredible outpouring of local construction talent and volunteerism completed the job. The tradesmen of the community were some of our most generous contributors, putting in many unpaid hours. That was the time that the new Little League chapter was created, with 184 players on 14 teams.

. . . On opening day, which had been postponed until Sunday because of late season rains, the day started with a brief but exuberant parade of Little League players through the town. Paul Sutterley was honored with a plaque that read “Without Paul’s inexhaustible energy and enthusiasm, the building of this park would not have been possible.” He threw out the first pitch, and after a few brief remarks, the 14 Little League teams assembled for review on the field.

. . . The park now hosts the annual 4th of July community celebration, Coast Youth Soccer, Mendocino High School Girls’ softball, informal Sunday afternoon ballgames, bi-annual visits from Miasa, and many picnics and barbeques.

. . . On 76/21/11 Laurie Starr wrote: “Over the years, the role of Friendship Park has grown beyond a first class ballpark into a community space that includes Girls’ High School Softball, Little League and Sunday baseball, soccer, youth football, the MUSE Fun Fair and of course, the long standing 4th of July community celebration, now known as Mendopendence.

. . . From 1993 until 2008 a dedicated group of volunteers managed and maintained our beloved park.  In 2008 the Friendship Park Board disbanded and the Mendocino Coast Recreation & Park District (MCRPD) agreed to be responsible for the upkeep and operation of Friendship Park and incorporated it into their lease agreement with the Mendocino Unified School District.  MCRPD is committed to carrying forward the Friendship Park Board’s mission: “To promote, maintain and develop Friendship Park as a high quality recreational facility for the community”.  It is through the community’s donations that the cost of maintenance, ongoing improvements and renovations has been, and will continue to be realized.”


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