STOCKTON – Just a year and a half ago, it looked like the game was over for Billy Hebert Field. The ballfield that was once home to the Stockton Ports and the Pacific Tigers had been abandoned as teams left for bigger, more modern facilities.
But J.D. and Danielle Hardcastle, owners of All Star Sports, took over the stadium from the city in September 2011 and are bringing it back for a new generation to enjoy.
“In our plans it was all about youth, community — using it for those things rather than just maintaining it,” said Danielle Hardcastle.
The Hardcastles submitted a bid through Stockton’s request for proposals process. They won the city over with their plans for sports camps, Little League games, travel team tournaments and availability to local high school teams.
In February, they finished a major renovation of the field by installing artificial turf in the infield. That means the bases and pitcher’s mound can be moved to accommodate younger as well as older players. It cost about $160,000, but they received help from local businesses. The field will last about 10 years and is an economy in the long run.
“It cuts way down on maintenance costs,” Hardcastle said. “You don’t have any dirt, any grass to take care of. And you don’t get rained out.”
Last year, they could only play about 30 tournaments on the field because some were rained out. This year, they expect to play nearly every weekend from March to November.
One of the new opportunities for Little League players is Friday Night Lights. Teams from District 8 will get a turn to play under the lights on the new field. “What other opportunity are they going to get?” said Hardcastle. “And maybe that spurs kids to get more involved and maybe they’ll become a Major Leaguer one day, who knows?”
Businesses have the opportunity to advertise at the field, with signs in the outfield, the bleachers, the scoreboard or the dugouts. There are also ad opportunities available on the ballpark’s, and the option to purchase naming rights for the field is available.
The Hardcastles believe it’s a good opportunity to reach families who come to the field. Six teams play during weekend tournaments – that’s not just players but their families as well and many of them are from out of town. It’s a chance to introduce them to Stockton.
“When these kids are done, they don’t know what’s around here,” Hardcastle said. “We can push them towards the Waterfront Hotel, which is gorgeous. We can push them to Lincoln Center. The moms are off, the kids are done playing, send them to the nice boutique shopping.”
They have also partnered with the Stockton Ports, the Thunder and the University of the Pacific to offer young ballplayers tickets to those games.
In addition, there is an area near the gate where sponsors are listed along with QR codes that link to coupons or more information. “So they’re not only seeing (an ad) in the outfield, but we’re also doing a call to action,” Hardcastle explained.
In the future, the Hardcastles said they may hold concerts at the field as well as football or YMCA camps.
“Benefiting everybody, that’s really our goal,” Hardcastle said.