Who says agents don't have a soft side? Bring up the subject of baseball in South Central Los Angeles, and Dennis Gilbert, the slick former agent who set salary records for clients like Jose Canseco, gets downright misty. "I grew up with guys like Bobby Tolan, Reggie Smith and Bob Watson," says Gilbert, a South Central native, "and we all played together on a dirt field with a wooden backstop, no fences, and a water fountain in right-field. Baseball used to be vibrant in the area. There just isn't anywhere decent to play."
There is now. On Sunday, Dennis Gilbert Field opened, less than three miles from the sandlot where Gilbert, 54, played as a boy. Funded by Gilbert and built upon what was a garbage-strewn lot, the $1.5 million venue features pristine dugouts, bullpens, batting cages and a press box. (Lights will be added soon.) John Young, of Major League Baseball's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, approached Gilbert about the project in 1997. The field will be used by RBI's area youths and serve as the home field for Los Angeles Southwest College, which until now has never had a baseball team. "Dennis has been so persistent through all the bureaucracy," Young says. "Without him, this doesn't happen."
Building the field was a labor of love for Gilbert, who works as a special assistant and adviser to White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. "I've been very fortunate with my work," says Gilbert. "This field is a way to give a little something back. My hope is that we'll get baseball going again in the area."