The baseball field in a Sonoma wine vineyard

'It's kind of like this secret, hidden gem'

June 7th, 2022

You can't see the field immediately from the main tasting room or over the tall, twisting grape stalks while walking around the property. And if you didn't already know it was there, why would you even be looking for it?

There've been ballparks set along oceanside cliffs and diamonds carved out among famous cornfields, but a baseball field in a wine vineyard? How would it happen? Why would it happen? What would that look like?

It looks magical.

"It's kind of like this secret, hidden gem," Micaela Green, Balletto Vineyards' marketing and e-commerce manager, told me over a phone call. "But if you know about it, or you go on one of the tours, you do see it. And most people, when they see it, they're just like, 'Whoa, this is the coolest thing ever. There's a baseball field in the middle of a vineyard.' It's shock and surprise, and then most people want to know why it's there."


It's there because, well, a guy and his team needed a place to play baseball.

"The field was built in 2002," Green said. "It was proposed by our vineyard operations manager, Manuel Vallejo, who's worked for the Ballettos for more than 30 years. Manuel asked [founder] John [Balletto] if they could plow about four acres for a baseball field. He was playing in a community league and his team was having a really hard time finding places to practice."

During that time, the Balletto family was in the middle of transitioning from a vegetable farm to a winery -- so they were already razing old fields and planting new ones. John also thought it would be a good idea, a perk for employees and a fun addition to the property. So, the founder bought his baseball-loving employees the materials needed for construction and then Vallejo and his coworkers began building their vision. It took about a year to finish, and they proudly maintain it to this day. Vallejos' team is fittingly called Los Uveros or, The Grapers, and they play other community teams on Sundays with practices a couple times per week. Their jerseys are also as cool as you'd imagine.

Vallejo warming up his right arm at Balletto

The dimensions are only a little bit smaller than a pro stadium: Left field's fence is 315 feet away, right is 300 down the line and straight-away center runs out to about 345 feet. The field is also extremely sustainable: The vineyard treats the diamond with 100 percent reclaimed water from the winery. There's a small reservoir off the right foul line that's just for that purpose (you can see it in the main photograph above). Oh, and, of course, there are the varying types of wine grown on all sides of the field.

"Yeah, all of the sections are marked. Left into center field, we're growing Pinot Gris," Green told me. "Right field is Chardonnay. Left field, like foul ground, is mostly Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and there is a little bit of Pinot Noir out there."

There's also an eight-foot gap between the outfield fence and the vines but balls still, occasionally, go crashing into the grapes. There was one time where a tour guide forgot there was a game going on while taking a group along some trails nearby. That resulted in some words of caution that tourists normally wouldn't hear while walking through a wine vineyard.

"Yeah we totally spaced that the guys were practicing," Green laughed. "We had to be sure to warn people to like watch out for foul balls and keep an eye on things. Didn't want people to get banged in the head by a baseball."

Kids and families of players will take part in practices during the week and patrons just visiting for the day can go down and watch games on Sundays. There are small bleachers on both the home and away sides. But even if there isn't a game, people still want to see what a baseball field in the middle of a wine vineyard looks like.

"Oh yeah, we get people that come just to see the field," Green said. "We do tram tours where we do a short mini vineyard tour and the field is part of that."

You can see some of the astonished reactions on social media.

Green, who's worked at Balletto for about 2 1/2 years, hasn't gotten a chance to play on the field yet because of COVID and a lengthy remote work period. But when the time does come, she'll be ready.

"It is my dream to host some inter-winery sloshball week or something with press," the marketing pro told me. "Yeah, it is my dream to play on the field, I just haven't gotten the opportunity to do it yet."

Home runs flying into wine patches, that hazy California sun setting way out on the horizon, a glass of fresh Pinot at the ready -- who wouldn't want to take an at-bat at Balletto's field of dreams?

All photos via Balletto Vineyards