Field of Dreams: San Francisco Semi-Pro Team Gives Locals Chance to Stretch Baseball Career Into Extra Innings
San Francisco Seagulls outfielder Dan Fernandez plays wallball in Minneapolis' Metrodome.
Back in the old days -- when kids played baseball instead of videogames featuring baseball -- young people attempted to cheat mother nature by squeezing an extra inning or two out of a game when, clearly, it was already dark enough you'd think an air raid drill was taking place.
It's a fond memory for Marc Caviglia -- and, in his own way, he's doing it now. Caviglia, 26, is attempting to cheat mother nature in a somewhat different manner. The onetime City College of San Francisco and University of Hawaii-Hilo baseball star has reached an age when most folks who've never signed a pro contract are well into recalling their exploits on the diamond over steins of lager and proving the age-old maxim: "The older I get, the better I was."
That's not the route Caviglia has taken. Instead, he founded his own semi-pro team five years ago with his former CCSF coach, Doug Price. Instead of reminiscing, he's playing first base for the San Francisco Seagulls. "We're giving guys the chance to play baseball as long as they can," says Caviglia, the old man of the roster. "I'm 26, but I'm still able to play at a high level. I've got friends who are as good as me, but they're playing beer-league softball. Why give up? You should always play for as long as you can."
Caviglia -- who is also the assistant coach to his former mentor Price -- has a roster full of college players, most of whom are Bay Area products and attend local schools such as Stanford or San Jose State. As unpaid amateurs, the Seagulls can play summer ball without jeopardizing their collegiate eligibility -- and barnstorm up and down the West Coast taking on teams with colorful monikers such as the Atwater Aviators, Nevada Big Horns, and Reno Astros. The team plays a double header at Big Rec Park (within Golden Gate Park) Saturday vs. The Sacramento Red Sox.
Playing first base, No. 33 Marc Caviglia
The team's yearly fund-raiser at Bertolucci's in South City takes care of half of the $10,000 in operting expenses -- meaning each player throws in 200 bucks to cover room, board, equipment (wood bats only), and sunflower seeds. And while none of the Seagulls alums have yet gone on to professional success, it warrants mentioning that baseball is a game in which a man who fails 65 times out of 100 is considered a prodigy. Just because no one's yet gone on to fame and fortune after his Seagulls days are over doesn't mean it's not going to happen, notes Caviglia.
"To say you won't be watching these guys at AT&T Park -- you could be wrong about that. It's just a matter of catching a break," says the veteran first baseman. "It's all about opportunities. It only takes one good game to get exposure from a college coach or a pro scout."
Caviglia isn't yet quite ready to close the book on his baseball dreams -- but he's a small business consultant when he's not playing, managing, or organizing road trips for his team. He says he'll play until it becomes obvious he's taking up a spot on the field that would better serve a younger player not even old enough to legally drink while reminiscing about his playing days.
In the meantime, one place the Seagulls don't expect to be noticed by scouts is on their annual road game to play the inmates of San Quentin. Needless to say, beanball wars do not erupt under the guards' watchful eyes. "Even though they're in there for a reason, they're still professionals on the field," notes Caviglia.
The player-coach goes on to note that the mound is still 60 feet, six inches from home at San Quentin and the bases are 90 feet apart. The wall, however, is probably pretty high.