Vista Bahia's ballpark still in a league of its own

Guest column by Aleta Walther

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This is part of a series of articles by local writers commissioned by the San Clemente Beaches, Parks & Recreation Commission about city parks, beaches and trails.

Article Tab: Grassy picnic areas adjacent to Arlie Waterman Field at Vista Bahia Park are often filled with baseball spectators during weekend Little League games.
Grassy picnic areas adjacent to Arlie Waterman Field at Vista Bahia Park are often filled with baseball spectators during weekend Little League games.

Vista Bahia Park has a picnic area, tables, benches and ocean and mountain views, but its historical baseball field, batting cages and bullpens take center stage at this remote park at the southeast end of San Clemente.

American novelist John Updike once described Fenway Park in Boston as a "little lyrical bandbox of a ballpark." Though Vista Bahia's Arlie Waterman Field isn't in the same league as Fenway, "little lyrical bandbox of a ballpark" is an apt description for the beloved ball field. It looks much as it did when it was built 57 years ago.

Vista Bahia Park/Arlie Waterman Field is at 402 Calle Bahia, nestled among the Presidential Heights neighborhood, San Clemente Municipal Golf Course and the San Clemente Trap & Skeet Range. Though the ball field is open to the public, San Clemente Little League has a permit that gives it playing preference. During the Little League season, players may occupy Arlie Waterman Field for Majors division games (ages 11 and 12) from 3 to 10 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends.

"It is a spectacular field," said Sam Massoto, president of San Clemente Little League. "It is the only Little League field that I am aware of in south Orange County that actually has its dugouts below ground."

The San Clemente City Council christened the diamond Arlie Waterman Field in 1994. Waterman lived in San Clemente for 46 years, 22 of which he was the city's superintendent of parks and recreation. He also was one of the founders of San Clemente Little League.

The league, which has 96 teams consisting of 1,100 players ages 5-14, plays games at a variety of San Clemente parks. Many players, however, consider Arlie Waterman Field special because of its nostalgic ambiance and amenities.

"When you consider everything, Waterman Field is our premier ball field," Massoto said. "For the boys, there is an aura about the field. Only the Major boys play there, so when they get to play there, it is a big deal. It's like they have graduated; they are the big men on campus."

For weekend games, 300 to 400 spectators often fill Waterman Field's bleachers and overflow onto Vista Bahia Park's grassy areas and picnic benches.

Vista Bahia Park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. A permit is required to reserve any part of the park for an event of 50 or more people or to bring equipment to the park such as a bounce house. For more information, call 949-361-8264.

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