The latest play at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park, “Under a Baseball Sky” tells the story of how an unlikely friendship was formed through the generation presence of baseball in their Mexican American community.
From José Cruz González, author of American Mariachi comes a Globe-commissioned story about baseball’s deep roots in the Mexican American community that is inspired by San Diego’s Logan Height community. Under a Baseball Sun, directed by Globe Resident Artist James Vásquez, is a story about a changing community, the struggles to maintain a sense of community, and the struggles of two families dealing with very personal issues, and rediscovery.
The deeply-rooted love for baseball creates a unique bond between a troubled teen and his elderly neighbor.
“It's a celebration of community and of the human spirit. At the heart of the story, it's not only about a community having to adapt, change, and always change. It's also about how people can help each other in a time of need,” González said.
Joseph Morales plays Chava, a social worker assigned to supervise young men who have been assigned to him by juvenile courts. He is assigned Teo, played by Diego Josef, who made his stage debut.
Teo threatened a boy at his high school and was assigned community service to help clean up a vacant lot belonging to his elderly neighbor Eli, played by Laura Crotte. The empty lot once served as a baseball field and was the heart of the community.
The abandoned lot carries the memory of Eli’s daughter Paloma, played by Ana Nicolle Chavez, who was once a star softball player, and son Santiago, played by Ceasar J Rosado.
Paloma was murdered when she was fighting for union rights for Latino workers, and Santiago was an Army Corporal who was fatally stuck along the side of a highway while changing a flat tire on his car.
It is through Teo’s work on Eli’s lot that revives the memory of Paloma and Santiago through the universal love of baseball and unties two lost souls through difficult situations.
According to González, the play was written with the help of longtime members of San Diego’s Mexican-American community. With the help of Maria Garcia, who lives in Logan Heights, and took a couple of hours to show Gonzalez around the neighborhood.
“That is where the seeds of the story began. She showed me around the community of Logan heights, and she was able to show me how this immigrant community, works at the canneries and carves out a life for their families. There was this place called the settlement house that helped immigrants learn English, pick up work skills, and more. Baseball was one of those things that were taught to young people, and so baseball teams emerged. Then to learn that Ted Williams grew up in this community in this area, and was half Mexican.” González said.
As the playwright began to conduct more research, he discovered how baseball was integrated into the work environment of the nearby canneries to teach teamwork, eventually evolving into union organizing.
“Not only that the baseball field became a sacred place for the community because it was a place where they can all come together. After church, after family, and play the game of baseball,” González said. “I wanted to look at how these communities also are having to deal with gentrification and trying to survive in a community as it is changing because of development.”
González and Vázquez did a reading of “Under a Baseball Sky at the Logan Heights Public Library a few months ago with over 100 people in attendance.
“After the reading, one of the most beautiful things happened. A lot of folks started sharing baseball stories of their grandparents. Both men and women played. One of the stories is about a young woman who was 16 years old and was the best softball player in the county, and that is an inspiration for one of our characters. There is a lot of inspiration that is taken from the history of this community that is brought to the story.
The play was first heard over zoom in 2021 as part of the Powers New Voices Festival. Under a Baseball Sky was rehearsed last year at the Colorado New Play Festival in Steamboat Springs.
Under a Baseball Sky will play in the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, part of the Globe’s Conrad Prebys Theatre Center in San Diego’s Balboa Park at 1363 Old Globe Way from Feb.11 through March 12. The performance schedule is
Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Tickets are available online at www.TheOldGlobe.org, by phone at (619) 23- GLOBE (234-5623), or in person at The Old Globe’s Box Office in Balboa Park. Regular ticket prices start at $29.
For additional information about Under a Baseball Sky, visit www.TheOldGlobe.org.