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Elliott Stern

You park at your own peril when you attend local baseball and softball games.

I learned that lesson the hard way many years ago and recently, two different San Marcos High families learned it as well.

If you park too close to the field, your car could be in trouble.

But just how close is too close?

That’s something you have to figure out for yourself and it really comes down to experience at each local field.

It’s not like you’re parking at Dodgers Stadium where your car is seemingly miles away from the field.

When you attend a local game, most of the parking is fairly close, so the better you know the field, the more likely you are to keep your car safe.

There’s a reason most of the really close parking spaces are empty.

Instead of back-to-back home runs, these San Marcos Royals’ families were victimized by back-to-back smashed windshields.

Well, sort of back-to-back.

The Royals played at the Santa Ynez Pirates recently in both baseball and softball and lost one windshield in each game.

On Tuesday, April 23, in the top of the fifth inning of what would be a 13-inning, 2-1 Santa Ynez baseball victory, the Royals’ Logan Ring launched a foul ball off a Tyler Rasmussen pitch that went directly behind home plate, over the screen onto the north side of Stadium Drive — and right into the windshield of a red SUV owned by a San Marcos parent.

It shattered the driver’s side of the windshield, creating a watermelon sized spider web that made the SUV impossible to drive. The family had to have it towed back to Santa Barbara,

The next day, Wednesday, April 24, it happened again during their softball game.

This time it was the top of the third inning in what would be another 2-1 Santa Ynez win.

The Royals’ Claire Early fouled off an Armani Garcia pitch that cleared the fence just off home plate on the third base side, slamming into the windshield of a gray sedan, leaving a cantaloupe sized spider web.

Years ago, when Hancock College still played their games at Santa Maria’s Elks Field, I found a nice parking spot that I thought was in a safe place.

It was down the left field line and I thought that my car was far enough away that it would be out of harm’s way.

I was wrong.

My passenger side mirror was the victim of a foul ball — a hit and run.

A new mirror would have cost me more than that old jalopy was worth so I sold the car to a local junk yard for a couple hundred dollars and used that toward buying my next junker.

That’s when I started scouting the parking lots.

In Santa Ynez, there actually isn’t a parking lot by the baseball diamond.

Most people park somewhere on Stadium Drive.

I usually park over by the tennis courts, east of the ball field.

Some families park in the dirt off the road which creates side-by-side parking.

I look for Jennifer Rasmussen’s big SUV. She’s an SYHS teacher, varsity girls tennis coach and Tyler’s mom and I figure that if I park beside her SUV, my car is safe.

The softball field does have a parking lot and I park at its far end but I’ve still seen several of those young women launch fly ball fouls over the left field fence that come pretty close.

And Santa Ynez isn’t alone.

You can park in harm’s way at Dunn, Cabrillo and Lompoc high schools, just to name a few.

So look before you park. Your car will thank you.

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