Rickey Henderson Field
on January 1, 2019
After a cold, wet winter made its presence known throughout the Bay Area, spring quickly blossomed back in the city of Oakland with its sweet, crisp smell filling the air as the birds chirp. It is the time of the year Oaklanders gear up for the arrival of America’s pastime: baseball, a game played on a beautifully-manicured diamond made of beam clay and green grass.
One of those diamonds has stood upright on 45th Street in North Oakland since 2007. The site, formerly Carter Middle School, is now Rickey Henderson Field, named after the Oakland legend and home field of the Oakland Technical High School Bulldogs. Part of its uniqueness is the close proximity it shares to Bushrod Park, where young players such as Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, and even Henderson himself picked up their first bat and glove and never looked back once. It is a field that is filled with dreams and potential—that “the Town” still has the highest pedigree of all in the sport.
As I stood and enjoyed the ambience of being on the field, I reminisced back to my days being a part of the action—it brought tears remembering the hits, stolen bases, curveballs, and diving catches that made me love the game. I even felt the presence of the “baseball gods” speaking to me, as I remembered old films from my childhood such as Angels in the Outfield, Little Big League, and Major League. Most notably for me was the scene in the Sandlot when Babe Ruth tells the young Benny Rodriguez, “Heroes will always be remembered, but legends never die.” I immediately went to imagining a game being played by the legends: Henderson stealing bases, Robinson crushing the ball out of left field, and even Curt Flood making a diving catch in the outfield.
Although the field is meant for baseball players to compete at the highest level, Rickey Henderson Field is possessed with an unknown enemy. That enemy remains camouflaged night and day, leaving its chocolate fudge in hidden patches of grass. The players will only know there is a trespasser on the field if they step on it or figure it out in the most excruciating way by diving for a ball and landing flat on their face in the pool that awaits their presence. On this spring day, no four-legged suspect could be seen committing the act, but they definitely remain armed and dangerous.
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