In the most recent edition of Bruin Blue, the official newspaper of UCLA athletics, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero addressed a variety of topics in his "The Insider's View" column. One of the topics he touched upon was Jackie Robinson Stadium and he spoke briefly about their goals for the future...kind of.
Finally, there is the matter of Jackie Robinson Stadium (JRS). Situated a mile from campus on the Veteran's Administration grounds, in a setting so serene as to make spectators feel they've been ferried to another time and place, the home of Bruin baseball is in a category of its own. We lease the venue from the VA, but maintain and improve it at our expense and manage the Bruin baseball home games. In the summer, it hosts a full slate of American Legion games and youth and showcase camps. When I played there, it was called Sawtelle Field. It's come a long way since the days of wooden bats and the barn down the first base line that served as our "clubhouse." This is due to many great Bruins, whose generosity has helped turn JRS into an absolute beauty. In an earlier column I spoke of my fondness and admiration for Jack Gifford and all that he did for our program, especially UCLA baseball. We recently lost another dear friend and loyal Bruin in Hoyt Pardee, whose name is featured on the Bruin Clubhouse, built in 1985, and who always answered the call from UCLA Athletics for support when asked.
Always looking to make things better, we are seeking to take what Jack and Hoy helped us build at JRS to a new level. We are looking into increasing our capacity and making other improvement that will allow us to serve as hosts for NCAA regional and super regionals on a regular basis.
Once again, we hear about how the athletic department wants to improve JRS, but we've been hearing that same story for years now. Three years ago, the grass hill was going to be taken out and seats would be put in there. That didn't happen, but they were going to do it two years ago. That didn't happen either, but they were going to do it last year. Well, that never came to fruition, but before this year...it still didn't get done.
While I constantly reference the poor shape of JRS and the Morgan Center's awful treatment of baseball from a facility standpoint, twice I have written full-length posts detailed the issues. One was in June of 2008, a letter that I sent to Guerrero. The other was at the conclusion of last season. Since that first post, there has been one major renovation, although the Morgan Center can hardly take credit for it. The Jack and Rhodine Gifford Hitting Facility, a truly first class hitting facility, was built prior to last season, but the Giffords funded the entire project and even brought in their own crew to handle the building so it would not be mismanaged as has been the case in prior renovations.
So the Morgan Center has yet to make a true commitment to JRS. Even Guerrero admits that they need to make improvements so they can host postseason baseball when the team earns it. Think about that. At UCLA, not only does the team have a sub-standard facility, but they cannot even host postseason play. That is unacceptable at a mediocre school, but at UCLA, it's downright embarrassing.
When I spoke to Coach Savage at the end of last season, they had no timetable for any renovations to JRS, outside of replacing the grass behind home plate with turf, a minimal improvement. After that, they have no other plans of note. Guerrero could not mention any plan of note. The overall plan still revolves around small improvements each year at a poor facility. Since when is that good enough? When college baseball is taking off nationwide and schools are pouring tens of millions into facilities, UCLA can't even commit to one decent renovation that takes care of multiple egregious faults at JRS? At what point does the Morgan Center realize that they embarrass the program, the school and the name of one of America's heroes with their treatment of JRS and do something substantial about it?