LODI (CBS13) — A piece of Lodi history went up in flames after a raging fire tore through Tony Zupo Field Sunday.
City leaders are now desperately trying to figure out how to rebuild in time for the next baseball season.
“It’s devastating. Everyone likes to play here,” said Lodi High School Varsity Coach Hobie Schultz.
The bleachers and press box behind home plate were left charred.
Lodi Deputy Fire Cheif Ron Penix said the field was built in 1924, which is why the fire spread quickly. Built 95 years ago, Tony Zupo Field, named after a big baseball legend in Lodi was on fire.
“A lot of history here, a lot of history. There were the Babe Ruth games, semi-pro games, to pro games,” said Murray.
The field was once home to the “Lodi Crushers” collegiate wood-bat baseball team. Generations of players have faced off on this field, including some famous names that ended up going pro.
“We had players such as Fernando Valenzuela who pitched for the Dodgers. Candy Maldonado who started out with the Dodgers and later on with the Giants,” said Jeff Hood, Lodi’s Director of Parks.
High school baseball teams from Lodi High to Tokay High that used to play at the field are now left in limbo.
“I had some players text me wondering if we would be able to play here this season. But again it’s fairly new, and things are still up in the air what the outcome will be,” said Schultz.
Fire investigators say the blaze is suspicious but the damage is so extensive they haven’t been able to determine exactly how it started.
“I wonder if the city will put the money back in to bring it back to life,” said Murray.
The city must come up with a quarter-million dollars before insurance can cover.
“We have a high deductible and we still haven’t figured out how to pay that,” said Hood.
Those who live in the city hope Lodi can get this park back open in time for baseball season in spring.
“We just have to wait and see and hopefully they get it fixed up and we get to play here again this year,” said Coach Schultz.
The park will have to be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up, and the city is looking for community support. They have a fund set up on their Facebook page through the Lodi community foundation where you can make donations. https://www.facebook.com/LodiParks/