D.J. Whittemore has become Carson City's version of Ray Kinsella. He has built it. And the people are already coming.
Western Nevada Community College's baseball coach has played a major role in the development of John L. Harvey Field, the school's on-campus ballpark, and on Sunday he was already able to see the fruits of his labor. About 250 fans showed up to watch the Wildcats sweep Lassen of Susanville 8-3 and 7-4 as WNCC opened its fall season in its new facility.
The new ballpark was also christened with its first home run, which was provided by Douglas High graduate Chad Walling.
"Unbelievable," said Whittemore about the turnout. "Way past my expectations. I thought if we had about 50 people, it would be a success.
"It just shows how hungry this community is for baseball. We don't even have seats and people still came out."
That should change soon thanks to a generous $50,000 donation from the Greater Nevada Credit Union, which will provide for 400 stadium seats. Whittemore said he hopes to have the seats in place within the next month.
When WNCC begins regular season play in 2006, it won't be a surprise if all those seats are filled. Whittemore said based on Sunday's turnout, he expects the regular season home opener to be a sellout.
WNCC also has several special events coming up. Whittemore has invited all Major League scouts in the area to a pro-style tryout to be held on Oct. 9. Players will be timed in the 60-yard dash, will be able to display their arms, will take batting practice and a intrasquad game will be held.
On Oct. 10, WNCC will hold a poker tournament as a fund-raiser at the Peppermill's Tahoe Ballroom. Entry fee is $200. Prizes and free drinks will be available.
Whittemore said he hopes the tournament will raise about half the funds needed for the regular season travel budget in 2006, which will be about $50,000.
The top high school seniors in Northern Nevada will also be invited to participate in a workout on Oct. 23. The top players from that workout will be chosen to play in a game against WNCC.
On Sunday, Walling's solo homer came in the second game, an impressive shot since it came off a wooden bat and cleared the left field fence with little breeze about 340 feet away. WNCC will compete in the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association's Scenic West Conference, which uses wood bats.
"We might have commanded 100-to-1 odds on that one," said Whittemore about Walling being the first one to hit a homer at WNCC's ballpark. "That was cool."
Walling had an outstanding game with three hits. An infielder by trade, Walling also played an unfamiliar position in left field and was able to throw out a runner trying to stretch a double into a triple.
Whittemore said Walling will be a utility player with a strong arm who can play all three infield positions and all three outfield positions and can even pitch.
"He's very valuable," Whittemore said. "Chad's one of the hardest workers on the team."
The most impressive hitter on the day was Spanish Springs product Brad Carlson, who hit the ball hard virtually every time he came up.
"Brad's been our best hitter all fall," Whittemore said. "He hits the ball to all fields. He hits the ball with power. He hits the ball with two strikes. His bat will be in the lineup every day."
Another player who had an outstanding day was Humberto Rodarte, who had three extra-base hits in five at-bats and also played well at shortstop.
The Wildcats also had five pitchers who threw 88 miles an hour or faster: Tobin Mason, who was drafted in the 15th round by the Atlanta Braves; Cole Rohrbough; Ryan Iodence, Arnold Toombs; and Stephen Sauer.
Among other pitchers who threw well were Josh Brink, who was drafted by the Minnesota Twins. The most impressive stat of the day came when the Wildcats' pitching staff combined to walk just one in 20 innings.
Another highlight came when Carson High's Aaron Henry was able to throw out a runner trying to score from center field.
WNCC will next play this weekend against the Reno Astros at Moana Stadium. The teams will play at 6 p.m. Friday and then will play a doubleheader at noon Saturday.
For more information on WNCC's program, call Whittemore at 445-3250.