By Richard Reyes

Stockton is one of the most miserable cities in America, according to past Forbes Magazine polls. Not so, according to young athletes hoping to achieve pro dreams who find themselves playing, living and thriving here.


Looking out to right field at Banner Island Ballpark

Stockton is a place to turn a dream from impossible to achievable.

Nowhere is that more real than at Billy Hebert Field in Oak Park, where members of the International Baseball Academy of California (IBAC) play on a mid June day.
Among the players was P.J. Patrick, a first baseman who played high school home games on the field.

“I know all the bumps in and slippery bases,” said Patrick.

Patrick is a little closer to the dream than most. He said he comes from famous baseball lineage. His grandfather is San Francisco Giants slugger Willie McCovey.

During the game, Patrick made a ricocheting catch off a teammate’s glove.

“He made a good play and dove for it, but fell. I seen it come out of his glove and caught it,” said Patrick.

Moments like this happen more often than a regular Stocktonian thinks in this city of more than 290,000.

Stockton is a place that is grooming the future of sports, but only gets on people’s radar for media coverage of the negative side of the 62-square-mile city.

Consider the powerhouse athletes who started in Stockton: Lynell Hamilton, who player for the New Orleans Saints; Dallas Braden, who played for the Oakland A’s and Jacki Gemelos, who recently took the court for the first time for the Chicago Sky or the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Hamilton came from Edison, Braden from Stagg and Gemelos from St. Mary’s.

Then there are those who came through Stockton on the way to the pros.

Josh Donaldson, Sean Dolittle, Chris Carter for the Ports, Devon Dubnyk, Alex Staylock and Colin Hemmingway for the Stockton Thunder.

Billy Hebert is the home for many local baseball games these days, since the Stockton Ports moved to better digs. Some players, though, may head down the road to 404 W. Fremont St, to a Stockton Ballpark to continue the dream.

The field seats 5,200 people, and has been the home for the Single A Stockton Ports since 2005.

The Ports have turned dreams into a reality for many, including Braden.

Braden went 8-0 in games pitched in Stockton. When called up to the show, he became the 19th pitcher in MLB history to pitch a perfect game.

“It’s a dream come true to play with a good crowd, good team, winning, and making it to the playoffs” said Ports catcher Santiago Chavez. “ I am still young so this kind of dream.

“All I can do is help in guide them and mentor them along the way. Untimely it is up to them,” said Ports manager Rick Magnante. “All the best, work hard, have a passion for the game. Commit to what you love, and have a work structure that allows you to stay on track.”

Addison Russell is one of the latest athletes from the Ports to be called up.

Russell was traded to the Chicago Cubs last season, but was called up to the big leagues earlier this season.

The ballpark is the foundation of building athletes dream, but also building broadcasters hopes of moving up in the leagues.

Zach Bayrouty has been broadcasting the Ports games for the past six years.

His finest moment came in 2008 when the Ports won the Northern California League championship.

“I’ll never forget Archie Gilbert making the catch in centerfield, and the Ports were Cal league champs,” said Bayrouty.

Next door to the ballpark is Stockton Arena.  After 10 seasons hosting the East Coast Hockey League’s (ECHL) Stockton Thunder, the facility recently became home for the National Hockey League (NHL) Calgary Flames Triple AAA affiliate, Stockton Heat.   

With the inaugural season slated to start on Oct. 10, the office staff is working to prepare.                                                                                                                                                                                                              Additional hockey footage courtesy of the Stockton Heat

Brandon Kisker, who worked for the Thunder and will be working for the Heat, said he’s parallel with the players — he, too, has dreams of moving higher.

“I’m just like these players. I’m developing to try in achieve my dream in the NHL like they are,” said Kisker. “You need some seasoning. You need some coaching, and all that good stuff. Come Oct. 10 when I walk up to the broadcast booth to call the first ever AHL hockey game here in Stockton, I think I will probably be a little nervous, very similar to the last one I called for the Thunder.”


Billy Hebert

Photos by Patrick Ray

Banner Island

Photos by Patrick Ray and Carmen Cruz

Stockton Arena


Photos by Patrick Ray