In this episode of Ballparks Around The World, we pay attention to Jackie Robinson Stadium, home of the baseball team of the UCLA Bruins. The ballpark is located in West Los Angeles, adjacent to Interstate 405.
Compared to the college ballparks shown in the previous weeks, the ballpark isn’t as super-duper but it is a nice and intimate ballpark that has a capacity of 1,838 which is the smallest capacity of the Pac 10 conference.
The ballpark was constructed at the location of former Sawtelle Field. The construction was ready in early 1981 and the inauguration was on February 7, 1981, with an exhibition game between the UCLA Bruins and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The stadium was made possible by a private gift from Hoyt Pardee (UCLA ’41), a classmate of Jackie Robinson. Robinson, a UCLA alumn, excelled in several sports: track and field, football, basketball, and baseball.
Robinson is not only honored by naming the stadium after him, there is also a bronze statue at the entrance of the ballpark. The statue was unveiled in 1985.
The ballpark is located near the UCLA campus (about a mile Southeast of it) on the other side of the 405 freeway.
The batting facility, which is located behind right-center field, is named Jack and Rhodine Gifford Hitting Facility, who also played for UCLA and graduated from its engineering school with a BSEE degree.
In 2008, the name “Steele Field” was added to the name in honor of the Steele Foundation for its support of the stadium.
In 2021, the ballpark got several updates, including a new state-of-the-art synthetic turf practice infield that will be called Branca Family Field, synthetic turf bullpen, installation of new sports lighting, and improvements to the parking lot and site utilities.
Ralph Branca was a three-time All-Star who embraced former UCLA standout Jackie Robinson upon Robinson’s breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier with the Dodgers, standing on the field beside Robinson on opening day in 1947 while other players refused. John Branca, Ralph’s nephew and a renowned entertainment attorney and philanthropist who graduated from the UCLA School of Law, committed $1 million toward the project.
The dimensions of the playing surface are:
Left Field – 330 ft (101 m)
Left-Center – 365 ft (111 m)
Center Field – 390 ft (119 m)
Right-Center – 365 ft (111 m)
Right Field – 330 ft (101 m)
The playing surface contains natural turf.
Here are some photo impressions of the ballpark. The final three photos are taken from the website of UCLA Athletics, the other photos are provided by the Dutch Baseball Hangout.