TPHS softball program receives long-awaited new field

March 12 marked more than just a 3-0 win for the TPHS varsity softball team. It was also the first game on their new field, a development 28 years in the making, according to varsity Head Coach Jonathan Moore.

This month, the varsity softball field opened after nearly seven months of construction and multiple delays due to drainage issues. A project stemming from a Title IX complaint filed in 2021 and then included in the first construction phase of the TPHS Athletic Improvements Project, the field provides the team with “a home, after 28 years,” according to Moore.

Prior to March 12, the varsity softball team played on a multi-use field that lacked multiple facilities, including a permanent fence. This left team members running after foul balls during play, according to several TPHS softball players.

“[The old field] was wide open and people used it all the time,” Moore said. “It took a beating because anyone could get on it whenever they wanted.”

The new field, with a natural grass outfield and dirt infield, now has a new backstop that meets CIF standards, a permanent outfield fence and a new scoreboard and flag pole, according to SDUHSD Executive Director of Planning Services John Addleman.

“[The fencing] has been a godsend because it’s really increased safety for the girls,” varsity softball Parent Liaison Kim Klekotka said. “Every time [the ball] hits the net, I’m excited.”

Klekotka, the parent of a senior on the varsity team, filed the 2021 Title IX complaint that launched the field construction, pointing out inequities between the softball and baseball programs at TPHS. While she said the new facility is “a beautiful field,” it is “still in need of a lot of improvement,” namely a drainage system.

“On this construction project, I feel that maybe some of the engineering for the field might have been overlooked when building it,” Klekotka said.

This summer, a new aluminum bleacher system and additional netting over the home dugout will be installed along with drainage improvements, according to Addleman.

“It’s nice to finally have a field that represents our level of play,” Kathryn McGinty (12), a varsity softball player of three years, said. “It’s hard to play your best when the field is bad.”

Riley Cullivan (10), a varsity player of two years, agreed.

“It was definitely a totally different experience [playing on the new field] because … it felt like [we] were being respected,” Cullivan said.

It is this respect that motivated Klekotka to file her Title IX complaint. “I was mortified about the field conditions,” Klekotka recalled. “It was inequity at its greatest.”

While the varsity field was upgraded, the field used for practice by the JV softball team has yet to undergo similar improvements — a request included in Klekotka’s complaint. The field used by the JV team is “old and beat up,” with no fence or bases, according to JV softball player Lolo Johnson (9).

In fact, softball has only one playable field — the varsity field — that both JV and varsity use for games. The program has had only one usable field for more than a decade, Klekotka said.

In addition to not being able to run simultaneous games, the softball program has difficulty hosting JV and varsity games on the same day since games cannot continue after dark due to the lack of lighting on the varsity field, a problem on the varsity baseball field as well. But, the baseball program has two playable fields, according to multiple reports by those involved in the softball program — a situation Klekotka calls “not equitable.”

TPHS baseball coaching staff did not respond for comment by deadline.

Similar inequity issues in softball programs exist district-wide.

While La Costa Canyon High School has two playable softball fields, one for JV and one for varsity, their facilities are similar to the old field at TPHS. According to Julie Neubauer, the head varsity softball coach at LCC and a social science teacher at TPHS, LCC’s softball facilities do not have permanent fences or a functioning bullpen, the last major update to the facilities being “long before [her] time.”

“You can’t even compare [the softball facilities to baseball facilities at LCC],” Neubauer said, noting that the LCC baseball program has an enclosed field, bullpen and permanent fence, as well as a bigger scoreboard and permanent bleachers.

While a Title IX complaint such as the one at TPHS has not been pursued during Neubauer’s time with the team, she said she hopes an LCC parent will take up an effort similar to Klekotka’s.

“Unless there’s a parent push or a legal issue, [SDUHSD] doesn’t do anything,” Neubauer said.

LCC administrators and athletic staff did not respond to a request for comment.

At San Dieguito Academy, senior softball player Ruby Galbraith has invoked Title IX to advocate for improvements to the softball program, writing an article in the SDA student paper last fall on the subject.

“Our coaches have done a good job making sure we have the basic equipment that we need to practice and do drills,” Galbraith said. “So I wouldn’t say [the facilities] necessarily affect our technical skill level. It’s more of a mental effect of feeling like the school doesn’t care about us.”

According to SDA varsity coach Brian Zeglen, the SDA softball facility only got roofs for their dugouts two years ago and still lacks a bullpen. The district is designing an upgrade to the SDA field and plans to start construction in 2026, according to Addleman. Both Zeglen and Galbraith said if the plan does not move forward, they feel they will have the basis for a Title IX complaint.

SDUHSD Title IX Coordinator Laura Strachan declined to comment on the facilities at both LCC and SDA.

At Canyon Crest Academy, the softball facility, the newest in the district after TPHS, is “pretty close” to the baseball facility, according to varsity coach Micah Rutkoff. CCA’s athletic administration is “very in tune with Title IX laws and making sure that there’s a balanced playing field for both boys and girls,” Rutkoff said.

According to Addleman, construction on a new synthetic field at TPHS that can be used by the softball program will begin this summer.

With a new field and more improvements on the way, the TPHS softball program has “more of a home,” Cullivan said.

Photos by Anna Opalsky/Falconer and Hope Dennis/Falconer

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