San Benito High’s field of dreams

Players and coaches say goodbye to Andy Hardin Stadium

The announcer booth at Andy Hardin Stadium was damaged during the March storms. The school is planning on adding a new field for the fall of 2019.

Friday night’s contest against North Salinas—a 60-30 San Benito High win—was the last regular-season football game at Andy Hardin Stadium—and possibly ever—if the Haybalers don’t end up hosting a playoff game this season.

The stadium will still host soccer events this winter, along with track and field events in the spring before construction of the new state-of-the-art athletic facility.

IN HONOR In 1962 the football stadium at San Benito High School was named for Andy Hardin, a well-regarded teacher and coach at the school for 35 years. As a young man he served in the U.S. Marines from 1917–1919.

“You have essentially three main parts: the aquatic center, the football stadium which has a track with synthetic turf, and then the softball stadium,” San Benito Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum said. “It may be a bit different on some aspects, but the target goal for the football stadium is to be able to host home football games for the Fall of 2019.”

Current San Benito High football coach Bryan Smith, who was a longtime assistant before taking over the head coaching duties before the 2016 season, has a long history with Andy Hardin Stadium. The 1992 San Benito High graduate first stepped onto the field at the age of 8 to play Pop Warner Football.

“I have a lot of great memories here playing Pop Warner in 1985, and here we are in 2017,” Smith said.

The beloved stadium is named after Andy Hardin, a former high school football coach and teacher from 1923 to 1958. It will be the future site of the school’s aquatic center, featuring one 50-meter pool and one 25-yard pool.

As for the concession stand, the school is trying to repurpose it.

“The best way to describe it is we’ll repurpose it so we can use it as storage or some other facility within the stadium,” Tennenbaum said.

Football-wise, Smith and assistant coach Rob Macias, a 1994 San Benito High graduate, said one game stands out in the stadium’s storied history: the 1992 game against Live Oak in which the Balers won a thrilling contest to clinch San Benito’s first Monterey Bay League championship.

With an overflow crowd in attendance—Smith estimated it was 3,000 people—the Balers stopped Live Oak on a fourth-down play with 1 minute, 30 seconds left to preserve a San Benito victory. Smith had former teammate, Matt Kennedy, who was the MBL’s Offensive Most Valuable Player in 1992, come give a speech to the team before Friday’s game.

“Matt went on to play at Gavilan College and the University of Texas El Paso, so he’s been to some great stadiums,” Smith said. “He talked about all of the places he’s played and how much this place meant to him.”

What makes Andy Hardin Stadium special is that every boy who has grown up playing football in Hollister for the last half-century has dreamed of playing on that particular field to be a part of the Haybalers tradition. Randy Logue, who coached football for 21 years, wrestling for 19 and track and field for 17 years at San Benito, said the saddest part of the stadium’s closing will be the fact that the future generation of players won’t be able to say they’ve played in the stadium.

“San Benito High School has been open since the 1800s, and you have a lot of people that are fourth- and fifth-generation Baler families,” Logue said. “The grandpas played football, the dads played, the kids played and their kids played.”

What made the stadium unique for such a long time—a grass field and dirt track—are the same factors why it’s severely outdated now. There are only a handful of high schools in the Bay Area that still utilize a grass field for football and a dirt track for track and field. For Logue and Macias, the dirt track has been the site of several poignant memories.

Macias laughed when he talked about hearing comments from opposing track-and-field teams that competed in Hollister for the last several years. Most high schools have synthetic ovals, which are fast, soft and absorb rain well.

The dirt track at Andy Hardin Stadium is pretty level all the way around, but it’s still a shock when opposing teams run on it for the first time.

“You always remember people from other schools telling us, ‘I don’t know how you guys run on this,’” Macias said.

Logue’s most poignant memories of the stadium revolve around all of the work he put in as the track and field coach, as he was responsible for spray painting lane lines and making metal markers. Even though San Benito High is long overdue for facility upgrades, Logue said there will always be a certain allure to Andy Hardin Stadium, even when it gets torn down.

“When something has been there since the 1950s, and all of a sudden it’s gone, things will never quite be the same,” Logue said.

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