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Harpers' labor of love

High School Baseball

Walt Harper and his son Ty maintain the CdM baseball field, which won the National High School Baseball Coaches Assn. Field of the Year in the western region.

June 28, 2012|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
(Kevin Chang | Daily…)

Walt Harper and Ty Harper like to get dirty on the Corona del Mar High baseball field.

Walt doesn't play baseball. Ty last played for the Sea Kings 13 years ago.

That hasn't stopped the father and son from their labor of love: maintaining the CdM field. These groundskeepers deserve an episode on the "Dirty Jobs" show.

Thanks to the tandem, the Sea Kings have a home-field advantage. They tend to win more often than they lose at home.

The field is also a winner. CdM earned the Field of the Year in the western region by the National High School Baseball Coaches Assn., Coach John Emme said.

At the team's banquet earlier this month, Emme gave all the credit to two guys. Walt and Ty are responsible for working on the field throughout the season and in the off-season.

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They don't take days off, not even on Walt's 60th birthday. He planned to celebrate his special day last week the best way he knows how, by getting dirty.

"You tend to downplay your birthdays the older you get," Walt said while laughing.

Walt prefers to spend his birthdays on the field. That is where he watched Ty and his other son, Aaron, fall in love with the game of baseball and become men.

Ty and Aaron also helped the Sea Kings win CIF Southern Section Division IV titles in separate years. How many dads can say their two sons claimed section crowns while playing at Angel Stadium and Dodger Stadium?

Not many.

"Those are probably the biggest highs I've ever had," Walt said of seeing Ty and Aaron win section titles in 1999 and 2004, respectively.

The Sea Kings grew accustom to performing on a big-league field. Walt designed it that way on their high school field.

For seven years, Walt said he learned how to keep up a field from a guy who worked on the Angels' field. Walt said he went to work for the guy for free.

"I had the day off," said Walt, who delivered newspapers early in the mornings, clearing his schedule to become an apprentice. "It was something I always wanted to do, work on fields. My kids were playing on them and I wanted to make them better."

Walt wasn't kidding.

Once he figured out how to upgrade and replace fields, he became his own boss in the early 1990s. By the way, he bought the house and all the heavy equipment from the man who taught him everything.

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