Harding Park multi-purpose field named in honor of Tony Vasquez Sr.

May 16, 2012
Santa Paula News

Tony Vasquez Sr. was a war hero and former POW who battled the demons of war by pouring his spare time into helping youth, particularly through Little League baseball.

Now a field at Harding Park has been named for Vasquez, approved May 7 by the City Council more than two years after the Recreation Commission approved the tribute.

City Manager Jaime Fontes told the council the smaller multi-purpose field at the East Harvard Boulevard park is being renamed in Vasquez’s honor “in response to overwhelming” public support. “This is a follow-up of months of work,” Fontes added.

Acting Recreation Director Ed Mount said Santa Paula Little League petitioned to rename the field in Vasquez’s honor to reflect his devotion to youth and baseball. Vasquez was involved in the league “since its inception” in 1956, serving as a board member as well as umpire and coach. 

“He might have coached you,” Mount told the council, all city natives. “He might have called you out.” Vasquez, who passed away in January 2009, was a “role model, a World War II hero” deeply involved in Mercer-Prieto VFW Post 2054, and “a mentor to many youth.”

According to the written staff report, although approved by the Recreation Commission after petitions with several hundred signatures were received, and “presented to the city manager’s officer, it was never brought forward to the city council.” 

Mount said three of the four fields at Harding Park “have been named in someone’s honor,” Tom Moore, Richard Ruiz and Hershel Hopkins. The staff report noted the Little League would purchase the sign for the field honoring Vasquez that would be consistent with other field signage, as well as pay for its installation.

Vasquez, said Mayor Bob Gonzales, was “a salt of the earth type of guy,” and Councilman Fred Robinson remembered as a child playing baseball at the field in the mid-1950s. “I have some fond memories there, lost a few games, won a few games.... No one,” said Robinson, “is more deserving of this honor than Tony Vasquez Sr.”

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