Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., had a baseball field that Dennis Dugan termed “an eyesore on a beautiful campus.” But Dugan, a director whose credits include several Adam Sandler movies such as “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan,” was given a lofty assignment in building the Knights’ new stadium.
“The task we were given was to make the best stadium in the state and I think we have succeeded,” Dugan said.
To achieve that goal, the group designing the stadium, headed by Dugan, had a difficult time benchmarking against another high school field.
“I couldn't really look at other high school stadiums because we couldn't find anything in high school that was anywhere near what we were dreaming of,” said Dugan, whose son Kelly is a Phillies’ prospect. “So we did most of our research based on college stadiums.”
The stadium was unveiled to the public Saturday during the team’s annual alumni game, which attracted a star-studded crowd. Not only were baseball luminaries such as all-time hits leader Pete Rose and seven-time All-Star Reggie Smith present, but radio and talk show host Larry King—whose son is a freshman on the team—was also in the house.
Dugan’s friend, Neil Diamond, stepped away from recording an album to christen the field by singing “Sweet Caroline,” usually reserved for the eighth inning at Fenway Park.
Dugan and his son shared a moment on the field before Kelly left for spring training. Kelly, a 2009 second-round pick out of Notre Dame, hit .291/.352/.506 last year with 20 home runs between high Class A and Double-A and was added to the 40-man roster.
“We were working out at the football field all offseason long and we snuck down to play on the field after they finished construction,” Dennis Dugan said. “We were the first two to play catch on the field. Kelly was standing on the mound looking around and said, ‘they are never going to have to recruit again.’ ”
The stadium, named Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, was a $3 million project suited to play host to major tournaments and is capable of holding night games. It also has a bevy of other standout features:
• Every seat in the 350-seat stadium is a stadium-style seat with backrests and cup holders.
• The playing surface was patterned after the University of Oregon’s field, and FieldTurf covers the playing surface, save for the dirt mound.
• Dugan said that longtime head coach Tom Dill’s top priorities for the field were dugouts and team rooms. The field now has locker rooms and coaches rooms connected to college-type dugouts.
• It is a familiar scene to see high school umpires across the country changing into their gear in the parking lot before games, so Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is equipped with an umpire locker room.
• Multiple cameras are set up around the field to provide live feed capability.
• Just like major league stadiums, players and coaches will have a separate video room to review film.
• The stadium has a press box with state-of-the-art sound systems and cameras.
• The Chris Dickerson Snack Stand, named for the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder who has played six years in the majors and attended Notre Dame, will have live feeds of the game on television monitors for fans waiting in line.
To complement the existing parts of campus, the stadium has arched openings and Spanish tile roofs.
“The stadium fits perfectly into the beautiful campus,” Dugan said. “My main goal was to make it fit into the campus with its classic Spanish California architecture.”
Dugan used his contacts with the filmmaking industry to design the stadium.
“I brought my production designer, Perry Blake, and we photographed the campus and arches,” Dugan said. “Then I got a Photoshop expert who has worked on many of my movies. She and I put our heads together and did five different angles of the composed stadium integrated into the campus. We also had a movie model-maker who is one of the top model-makers in the business.”
The Knights have produced a stable of major league talent, including Giancarlo Stanton, Cy Young winner Jack McDowell and Brendan Ryan, among others. Notre Dame plays in the Mission League, arguably the most competitive and deepest league in the country.
Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will play host to its first regular season game action on March 1, when the Knights begin their season against Arleta High.