Want to coach or play baseball/softball at RFSC?
Fill out the appropriate forms below.

BACKGROUND CHECK  PLAYER REGISTRATION 

 

400 Stanton Avenue
Pueblo, CO 81003
Ph: (719) 583-6195

Inside the Runyon Field Sports Complex Part IV

High school-age softball players from the Stingers and Aztecas teams play in a game at Max Salas Field on June 21, 2018 at the Runyon Field Sports Complex (CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/CHRIS MCLEAN)High school-age softball players from the Stingers and Aztecas teams play in a game at Max Salas Field on June 21, 2018 at the Runyon Field Sports Complex (CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/CHRIS MCLEAN)

 


Max Salas Field named after man who gave everything back to the players

This is the fourth of a six-part series taking an in-depth look at the six fields at the Runyon Field Sports Complex. Chieftain sports writer Austin White will be providing a history of each field as well as how it was named and what events take place on each of the six fields at the complex during the year.

BY AUSTIN WHITE | The Pueblo Chieftain | JUL 15, 2018

Pueblo wasn't nicknamed the Steel City just because of the factories that surround the town. The name was earned because of the hard working individuals who worked in those mills and built the city from the ground up.

Nowadays, the steel industry is not quite the same, but that same blue-collar mentality is still alive in every person and every piece of Pueblo.

One of the strongest beams was Max Salas.

"The hardest working man on a baseball field I've ever seen and I've been in the business for 48 years," head CSU-Pueblo baseball coach Stan Sanchez said about Salas. "I've never seen a more driven individual to work with kids to get better."

Salas coached any child who had the slightest itch to play baseball and would work from sunup to sundown, as Sanchez described. On top of it, everything he did was done voluntarily. Salas never asked for any compensation.

However, the same could not be said at the Runyon Sports Complex when the idea of expanding came along in the early 2000s. Current general manager Dave Dudley described the process it took to try to receive grants from the county to help pay for new fields, attempts that started before he even took over in 2005.

With Dudley's help, the complex finally received some money to build and improve the complex. Salas Field was part of that expansion in 2007.

The hard work it took to finally complete the project could only be matched by the passion of Salas. Naming the field after him was a perfect fit.

"What he really did was just help a lot of kids," Dudley said. "He was just a guy that loved baseball and gave it all of his time. Never took a penny for any of it and just helped out, a labor of love."

When Sanchez first became the head coach of the revitalized CSU-Pueblo baseball program in 1994, one of the first people in line to help build the program was Salas. Observing Salas coach and push his players showed Sanchez just what kind of man he was dealing with.

Felisha Garcia, a member of the Stingers softball team, runs from second to third base during a game against the Azteca team at Max Salas Field on June 21, 2018 at the Runyon Field Sports Complex (CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/CHRIS MCLEAN)Felisha Garcia, a member of the Stingers softball team, runs from second to third base during a game against the Azteca team at Max Salas Field on June 21, 2018 at the Runyon Field Sports Complex (CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/CHRIS MCLEAN) Through it all, Salas did it because he loved his home of Pueblo. Seeing a successful college baseball program in his town became his main objective. Assisting Sanchez, the ThunderWolves are one of the top programs in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and all of Division II.

"He was a very proud Pueblo man, he had this kind of this steel-man mentality," Sanchez said. "Heck, we were in the World Series in three years and a lot of it had to do with his drive to get our program on the map."

At the CSU-Pueblo Baseball and Softball Academy, Salas did some of his best work with players of all ages. Sanchez said Salas never turned anyone down, including any girl trying to learn the game or practice their softball skills.

Of course, accepting help from Salas was like signing into a full-time commitment. Some of the best coaches are the ones who push their players the hardest and Salas would do that for any player he came into contact with. He worked at any hour.

Expanding past baseball was not only a trait of Salas, but it has become a hallmark for the field named after him in 2008.

Originally the plan with Salas Field was to host Little League baseball games, specifically the 12-and-under division. However, high school softball was having a bit of an identity crisis and could not find a permanant home.

Teams switched back and forth between playing at City Park for home games to CSU-Pueblo's Rawlings Softball Complex.

With all the moving around and uncertainty as to where the high schools would play their fall season, Dudley and his crew at Runyon offered their fields for the Pueblo-area high schools. Starting in 2011, Runyon became the home field for every Pueblo high school softball team.

The move wasn't only good for the players and schools, but it had financial benefits for the district as well. Dudley described how softball at Runyon actually brings in more money (at the gate) than baseball.

The timing also was excellent for softball due to the increased costs of managing the fields. With youth baseball and softball increasing at Runyon, the infield grass on Corsentino, DiIorio and Salas fields were getting ripped apart faster than the grounds crew could put it back together.

Instead of continuing to pay for upkeep of grass, Dudley and the Runyon brass decided to remove it completely from all three fields. That opened the door for softball since grass infields are not part of the game.

"We couldn't keep the grass good anyway, it was getting bad," Dudley said. "Softball was kind of a warm welcome."

.


"Having a field named after him, I would think he would be really humble about it and probably give everybody credit around him because that's the kind of man he was."
STAN SANCHEZ 
CSU-PUEBLO HEAD BASEBALL COACH


Not to mention that Salas Field was farthest away from the center of the complex and getting access to hoses to wet down the field and other tasks was a hassle.

Putting in more work than expected was the way Salas lived his life. Sanchez touched on that when he spoke at the naming ceremony in 2008 reflecting on the life of his good friend.

"He was like another father to me, he took care of me and my family since I was from California and didn't know anybody," Sanchez said. "Having a field named after him, I would think he would be really humble about it and probably give everybody credit around him because that's the kind of man he was."

Salas passed away in 2007. Having his name displayed high above the diamond is more than just a few blue letters on a white sign. It means an opportunity for young players to become the best they can be.

"I think the field in Max's name, in my mind, is a field of opportunity for kids to get better through him and his name as far as what it takes to be a player," Sanchez said. "He represented Pueblo because obviously Pueblo is a blue-collar town and that was Max. I think his field kind of represents that."

awhite@chieftain.com

Spectators watch high school-age softball players from the Stingers and Aztecas teams play in a game at Max Salas Field on June 21, 2018 at the Runyon Field Sports Complex (CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/CHRIS MCLEAN)Spectators watch high school-age softball players from the Stingers and Aztecas teams play in a game at Max Salas Field on June 21, 2018 at the Runyon Field Sports Complex (CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/CHRIS MCLEAN)

The Max Salas Field sign hangs on the backstop at one of the six fields at the Runyon Sports Complex (CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/CHRIS MCLEAN)The Max Salas Field sign hangs on the backstop at one of the six fields at the Runyon Sports Complex (CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/CHRIS MCLEAN)