Long before the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves played a baseball game at Fort Bragg, the Tri-Valley Babe Ruth League was using an active military base as its home field every day.
The Tri-Valley Babe Ruth League began in 1990 under the direction and leadership of Joe DeProspero. They started playing at various high schools in the region, but couldn’t find a home. Through “Coach Joe’s” efforts, the league was able to secure the once broken down ball field at Camp Parks. They approached the base because they had a field that was in array. They went in and rebuilt the field for them, used their own money, and the military lets them play for free.
The facility is an Army Reserve base approximately 45 minutes east of San Francisco. Camp Parks was a Navy Base from 1942-1946 and an Air Force base from 1951-1959 before its transfer to the Army. Tri-Valley has been playing there for 25 years and is the only Babe Ruth team in the U.S. that plays on an active military installation. The league is proud of its relationship with Camp Parks and the off-field success of their ball players.
“It’s why our kids are very respectful, it’s why our kids play hard,” manager David Grant said. “They know that integrity and the whole nine yards that kind of comes with the Army or military mantra.”
All of Tri-Valley’s league games, which include divisions for 13, 14 and 15-year-olds, are all played at Camp Parks. The field has lights and the players maintain the field themselves. They drag the infield, rake the mound and cover it with tarps when necessary.
Tri-Valley’s work ethic and dedication has definitely been demonstrated with their 2015 and 2016 World Series championships. Their respect for the military and their home field shone through their actions. Players bowed their heads during the Star Spangled Banner while donning camouflage uniforms with Camp Parks patches on the right sleeve. Although no current players on the 14-year-old roster have parents or family in the military, Grant said there have been instances of players’ parents being stationed at Camp Parks while playing for Tri-Valley.
Some servicemen and women live at Camp Parks full-time, while others routinely come in and out of the base, which creates an interesting dynamic during baseball season. “We get a pretty good crowd with our games on the weekends with Army personnel,” Grant said.
Tri-Valley is also a very proud Babe Ruth League team. They know what it is to earn their way to play in a World Series. During the local league season, the players that made up the 2016 championship squad participated on different teams within the league. Friends competing against friends and having fun! At the end of the local league season, the league selected its best fifteen players to its tournament team. These players came together to win the District Tournament, State Tournament, Regional Tournament and the 2016 Babe Ruth 14-Year-Old World Series.
Tri-Valley has a lauded list of alums who have made it to MLB or have been chosen in the MLB draft. Brandon Crawford of the San Francisco Giants, Stephen Piscotty of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cleveland Browns’ Brian Shaw are Tri-Valley’s active major leaguers, but the program has produced 15 draft picks, including 2013 first overall selection Mark Appel.
The Tri-Valley Babe Ruth League is extremely proud and honored to look back on the past 27 years at the on-field and off-field success of its ball players.