Thursday, March 22 , 2018, 3:21 am | Overcast 59º


Santa Barbara High School Names Baseball Field After Longtime JV Coach Bill Oliphant

With 'Oliphant Field' signs posted on the backstop, Dons past and present gather to celebrate the contributions of their mentor and friend

Standing in front of his uniformed Santa Barbara High School junior varsity baseball team, longtime coach Bill Oliphant thanked the school Tuesday for allowing him to first begin coaching decades ago as well as for his latest opportunity — becoming the namesake of the field used for team practices.

The field, which sits adjacent to the Santa Barbara Junior High campus, is used by the Dons for practice, and now will be called Oliphant Field. Dozens of Dons — past and present — gathered on the field Tuesday to support and celebrate their coach.

The Santa Barbara school board approved naming the field after the coach last fall, and signage declaring the space "Oliphant Field" has been installed on the backstop.

Santa Barbara High School Principal John Becchio recalled teaching P.E. on the field earlier in his career and seeing Oliphant working with the kids he coached.

He said varsity coaches Fred and Donny Warrecker and George Rempe all benefit from players who leave the junior varsity team and Oliphant's tutelage equipped with baseball fundamentals.

"Bill is taking on the young kids and giving them what they need to get to the varsity level," he said.

Fred Warrecker recalled growing up with Oliphant on Santa Barbara's Westside, and when Warrecker began pitching for the Santa Barbara Foresters, a college summer baseball team, Oliphant was always hanging around the field as a 12- or 13-year-old, catching balls in the bullpen. 

Warrecker recalled close games and rivalries playing out on the field, and the ups and downs of coaching for which Oliphant was there.

Former player Colin Eaton recalled the first time Oliphant asked him if he wanted to catch during a game, a chance to play in a position that helped him gain confidence on the field and in other areas of his life, too.

Bill Oliphant
Former player Colin Eaton hugs coach Bill Oliphant during Tuesday's ceremony. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Having gone to Peabody and Harding schools, Oliphant recalled growing up in Santa Barbara.

It was "a magic time" before the closing of Laguna Park, the Depression-era park that formerly sat at Garden and Cota streets and where many of his Little League games were played. He also recalled watching the Foresters practice there.

Oliphant went on to Santa Barbara High School, where he played basketball and baseball before graduating in 1964.

Despite a "congenital lack of talent" and weighing 94 pounds when he arrived at Santa Barbara High School, athletics became a part of Oliphant's life, and later, coaching.

He graduated from Santa Barbara City College and served in the U.S. Army. While he was there, he learned that several friends he had played with in Santa Barbara's peewee leagues were killed in Vietnam.

After returning to Santa Barbara, Oliphant began teaching special education at La Cumbre Junior High, coaching basketball and basketball for several years, and recalled the excitement of being hired by Santa Barbara High School as a coach.

Oliphant had been teaching for 35 years when the district offered him an early retirement in 2008, but allowed him to continue coaching.

Before Oliphant spoke, Superintendent David Cash officially announced the name of the new field to applause.

"Every great teacher is also a coach," he said. "The educators amongst us understand that, not only has he been a great coach but a great teacher, influencing lives inside and outside the classroom."

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >