Nearly four months after Wilson and Cabrillo played the final organized baseball game on Bohl Diamond at Blair Field, Long Beach’s historic ballpark is back in action. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have established Blair Field as their secondary home for the remainder of the shortened 2020 season, making Long Beach the landing spot for the future stars of the organization.
When baseball activity officially kicked off last Friday morning, a few dozen fans assembled behind the left field fence, hoping to snag a home run ball or get a photo with a future big leaguer. While the Angels’ major league roster reported to Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Blair Field was reserved for the next wave of MLB talent, including some of the top prospects in the team’s farm system.
Among the group of fans assembled beyond left field was Wilson High football and baseball standout Ryan Pettway, who was enjoying the chance to witness something resembling live sports after months in quarantine.
“I’m just excited to see baseball again,” said Pettway while wearing his baseball mitt, ready to snag a home run ball. “I know a lot of these guys might not be playing for the Angels this year, but it’s still awesome to see.”
Also among the crowd was Steel Morris, president and founder of the Miracle League of Orange County, who was alerted that the Angels were in town by friend and co-worker Gabe Natividad. Since their league has been shut down due to the pandemic, they’ve been anxious to get baseball back in their lives, and in Natividad’s words, “restore a sense of normalcy.”
“We’ve just been missing baseball,” Morris said. “We desperately need any shot of baseball you can get, so we wanted to come out and show our support.”
The fact that Bohl Diamond at Blair Field is just a quick jog up the 22 from his home in Westminster made it convenient for Morris to come check out his favorite team, but being at Blair Field also brought back a rush of great baseball memories, which have accumulated for the past 60-plus years at Long Beach’s home diamond.
“(Blair Field) holds a special place for me because I played all through college and hit a home run here way back in the day. That was my one and only shot of glory here,” recalled Morris with a laugh. “It’s just always been a great field. And any time there’s an event where you can get that minor-league feel with potential major leaguers, that’s pretty cool.”
Included in the group of Angels working out at Blair Field was Jo Adell, considered the top prospect in the Angels’ farm system and ranked the No. 6 prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com. This is Adell’s first time back at Blair Field since competing at the prestigious Area Code Games in 2016, where he even won that year’s Home Run Derby. One of Adell’s teammates in that year’s Area Code Games, Reid Detmer, was the Angels’ first-round pick in last month’s MLB Draft following a collegiate career at Louisville.
Those connections are not uncommon, as Blair Field has served as a gateway to the major leagues for decades. The biggest names in baseball have come through Long Beach on their way to The Show, including Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, Kris Bryant, and even current Angels stars Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. The No. 1 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, Spencer Torkelson, played at Blair Field during the 2016 Area Code Games, and came back again during his college days with Arizona State.
So as the sports world adjusts and restructures during the ongoing pandemic, Blair Field continues to serve as a proving ground for the next generation of baseball stars. The arrangement with the Angels may be temporary, and largely closed off to the public, but there’s plenty of room beyond left field for fans craving baseball, and something that feels like normal.