W.P. Kinsella’s vision of a fantasy baseball team cracking balls in the middle of an Iowa cornfield holds nothing to the unlikely site of Balletto Vineyard’s “Field of Dreams,” carved out among the vines in Sonoma’s Wine Country.
Winery employees built the regulation-sized baseball field themselves 13 years ago. The scenically situated ballfield has remained largely under the radar, even after the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission included it in their self-guided Sonoma Vineyards Adventures tour map two years ago.
Winery owner John Balletto said employees came to him in 2002 asking if they could put a baseball field into an unplanted area on winery property off Occidental Road in Santa Rosa.
“I told them I would support them with equipment and materials if they would do the work,” Balletto said. It was finished and ready for play within a year.
“I could probably get 12 to 15 tons of grapes a year off of that land,” he said. “But it’s a nice benefit for our key employees who really enjoy playing baseball. It’s what we do here.”
Vineyard Manager Manuel Vallejo — no relation to Gen. Mariano Vallejo — spearheaded the Balletto “Field of Dreams” for himself and other field workers who are big Giants fans.
“My dad loves baseball,” said Teresa Vallejo, 21, adding that he has worked for Balletto for more than 30 years.
The field is home turf for Los Uveros, or The Grapers, who play league baseball with other community teams on Sunday mornings. It’s often a family affair, with wives and kids showing up to cheer and offer support. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, almost-year round, families also turn out for practice.
“It’s really neat. A lot of the children of the employees come out on practice nights. Their dads will be playing on the big field and the kids will have their own game going on the side,” Teresa Vallejo said.
The field covers 3½ acres and is surrounded by chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot gris grapes. The public is welcome to see the field and watch games, but for insurance reasons, it’s for the use by employees only, Balletto said.
You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 521-5204.