“Take him to Blue Ball Park,” said the owner of the dog. “It’s right next door and he’s used to going there. You can’t miss it – just go to the end of the driveway and look to the right. You’ll see the giant blue balls.”
“Oh, yes, I know it.”
I knew it well. The real name is “Anna Jean Cummings Park.” Although I didn’t know the woman, I do know her husband, Bill, and son, Brian. And I knew how hard she worked to preserve the integrity of the land, formerly the O’Neil Ranch. As the executive director of the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and founder of Save Soquel, she spent twenty-five years making this project a reality. The committee, known as Friends of Anna Jean Cummings Park, has continued her work after her untimely death in 1990.
I remember when the park opened in 2001 and seeing the giant sculptures by Steve Gilman and Katherine Keefer, titled “Skyballs.” Hmmm, Skyballs, indeed. When I first heard folks calling them “blue balls” I must admit I snickered (Bad girl!). It conjured up memories of my high school days in the 60s.In those days good girls didn’t…well, we just didn’t. Look it up in Urban Dictionary if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
The name stuck. Nobody cracks a smile. It’s just “Blue Ball Park.”
So, when Blue the Beagle’s owner was giving me the lowdown on him, I listened carefully. “He’s an older dog, about ten, and he has separation issues. He’s from the Dominican Republic and he’s had a rough time. His owner died. He went to her sister’s house and then she died, too. They were both my aunts and there wasn’t anybody else willing to take him, so we brought him here. He’s having a hard time adapting, but he is bilingual.”
“Ahhh,” I sighed, “no problem. I speak Spanish. I lived in Costa Rica for a few years.”
Thinking I would have an easy time of it, I accepted the job of taking care of Blue for the weekend. It was on our first walk to Blue Ball Park that I realized this was no cream-puff job. I outweigh Blue by about a hundred pounds and yet, I could barely hold him back. No matter how many times I shouted “!Venga!” it fell on deaf ears. He lowered his head and turned himself into a solid mass of determination. In any language, the message was clear – I’m going to pee on that bush over there, not this one over here! Clearly, Blue was in charge. I decided to pick my battles, and this was not one worth fighting.
The good news is that Blue taught me a whole bunch about my old neighborhood. Blue Ball Park is located just above Soquel High where my two super-star children attended high school. I was so busy with my nose to the grindstone, I never took the time to realize what a magnificent park was right there. Now I discovered the ninety-five acres of manicured playing fields, party pavilion, hiking trails, picnic tables with ocean views – and THE STAIRS!
Back in the day, I used to train on the famous Capitola stairs that go from the village to Depot Hill. They are difficult, irregular heights and unevenly sized. But at least there are landings where you can recover. The stairs at Blue Ball Park? No landings. They are shallow and long. Going up is hard work; coming down is impossible. I took the long way around on the return. Blue had no problem either way. Such an animal!
I now have an added training drill to my “Operation Bunny.” I have been training at the Boxing Gym five days a week to get ready for my big birthday coming up. Blue and I have an understanding – he doesn’t act his age either. I might have to get him a set of bunny ears if we are to keep training together.
Blue is a happy camper at the park. The size of the balls match the size of his heart. He’s a fine example of not letting his age define him. Go Blue!
Thank you, Anna Jean! Without you, there would be no Blue Ball Park. And for those who know the whole story, it is and shall always be known as “Anna Jean Cummings Park.”