SAN FRANCISCO -- Aaron Rowand knows the value of a well-kept sandlot. Years after he had trouble finding one while growing up in Southern California, it's where he's built a big league career. "Little Leagues were on the other side of town," the Giants center fielder said. "My mom tried to raise three kids by herself. It was difficult for her to give me that opportunity, because she was working 9-to-5, trying to take care of all us." Now Rowand and the Giants Community Fund and its partners are taking care of Daly City's Panorama Elementary School. On Friday, the school's faculty, students and their parents, as well as local dignitaries and Giants representatives gathered to dedicate Aaron Rowand Junior Giants Field, which doesn't have its own expansive cove or a giant Coca-Cola bottle beyond its outfield fence but is replete with dugouts, bases, a mound, foul lines, green grass and even dirt.
"I would have never expected this," said Panorama principal Robin Pang-Maganaris. The principal learned of the Peter A. Magowan Fields for Kids program when she went to a Giants game last season at AT&T Park. She told her husband, "I want the children of Panorama to have a field as nice as this one." What started with a telephone call grew into a collaborative project. Once the Brisbane School District and San Mateo County paved the way for the construction, it took just 60 days to complete. Panorama Elementary and its 170 students previously had a field deteriorated by drought and a lack of resources, full of weeds and gopher holes. Now it's up to them to ensure the new diamond's upkeep. "That is always our greatest concern, maintenance after the fact," said Paul Giuliacci, associate director of the Giants Community Fund, who worked directly with Pang-Maganaris. When Rowand signed a five-year contract with the Giants after the 2007 season, he expressed an interest in community involvement. Due to his sponsorship and the non-profit organizations involved, Rowand's name is now on the 20th field built, following the likes of Bobby Bonds, Barry Bonds and, most recently, Barry Zito. The new field will also host Junior Giants summer baseball, in which 15,000 kids ages 5 to 18 from California, Oregon and Nevada participate. "To be able to give back a little bit to the kids in the community and give them the opportunity to play somewhere [is great], especially on a field like this," Rowand said. Two other major donors, Giants president Larry Baer and honorary chair of the Giants Community Fund Peter Magowan, spoke at the dedication Friday, thanking the Good Tidings Foundation for its role. Rowand, for the most part, directed his comments to the kids seated on the infield grass. "It's really an honor to be out here ... just giving you guys the opportunity to play this great game, a game that has brought me to this point in my life," he said. "I hope all of you ... if you guys ever have a chance to make a difference in somebody else's life, by what you're doing, do it, because not everybody is as lucky as you are."
Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.