Marilyn Bohl’s love for baseball began as a young girl in Iowa. Her devotion to the Long Beach State Dirtbags started shortly after attending her first game at an aging Blair Field in 2001, and it hasn’t eased up yet.
Bohl, a fixture at Dirtbags games, followed up her $1 million dollar donation made last year to help renovate the 59-year-old city stadium with the announcement Monday of an additional multi-million dollar investment that will further the upgrades.
Not only will Bohl’s generosity help change the look of the field, but also the name. Blair Field will now be known as “Bohl Diamond at Blair Field” in recognition of her longtime support.
“I decided the first step was a good investment and it paid off and I figured I might as well do some more,” Bohl told a crowd at Blair Field that included former Dirtbags and current major league players Danny Espinoza, Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Duffy, Adam Wilk and David Banuelos.
Also on hand for the naming ceremony were President Jane Close Conoley, Mayor Robert Garcia, Athletic Director Andy Fee, Coach Troy Buckley and former coaches Dave Snow and John Gonsalves.
Blair Field, aided by Bohl’s initial investment and those of Jered Weaver, Evan Longoria, Jason Vargas and Tulowitzki, saw improvements unveiled last season to the outfield wall, a new batting facility, clubhouse and bullpen.
Bohl’s latest contribution will go to improving the stadium lights, renovating the playing field and drainage system, as remodeling the existing structure along the left-field line into a multi-purpose facility. There also are plans, with continued community support through the Blair Field Campaign, to install new seating, renovate the restrooms in the facility, and make other improvements to the fan experience throughout the ballpark.
Fee said he will sit down with Bohl in the coming weeks and together they will decide which project to tackle first. He said the $1.6 million field renovations could begin as soon as the 2018 season is over. Work on the lights, estimated at $2 million, and the building wouldn’t begin until after the 2019 season at the soonest because of contractual dealings with the city and surrounding area.
Blair Field is owned by the city of Long Beach and used by many of the city’s high schools. Long Beach State leases the stadium.
“This facility has the potential to strengthen the relationship between the city of Long Beach and the great Long Beach community and I feel very strongly about that,” Bohl said.
Coach Troy Buckley called Bohl’s donation “mind blowing.”
“To want to give like that is unbelievable,” he said. “It’s unbelievable that somebody wants to give their hard-earned money to us. There’s an awe-ness to it as well.”
Bohl, who along with her sister Arlene can be found sitting in the seats along the third-base line every homestand, said she wasn’t just investing in the baseball program but “investing in the lives of every single one of our baseball players.”