Luke Peet has always loved baseball.
The Bakersfield native had that passion passed down to him from his grandmother, who raised Luke and now lives with his wife and their two kids in Lakeside. He is a diehard fan of the game, which is obvious when you step into a room he calls the ‘clubhouse’.
The room is filled with pictures, ticket stubs, banners and bobbleheads. There are many Major League logos on display, but there's no mistaking it - the Padres are his team.
“I don't miss a game,” Luke said.
But in the last few months, he's been missing them a lot.
The spread of coronavirus forced Major League Baseball to suspend its season and forced people to stay home with limited ways of passing the time.
“I just can't sit inside and Netflix all day it drives me nuts,” Luke explained. “I gotta be doing something.”
Keeping his hands, and mind occupied is a necessity. Luke has spent the last 14 years serving his country. He joined the Navy in 2006 and retired in June. During that time he worked a variety of jobs, and traveled to a number of places - including two tours in Iraq.
“I had experiences and met people that were some of the world's best.”
Luke returned home for good a year ago. Like many others, he's had to navigate both the physical and emotional effects of his years of service.
“The biggest challenge was humbling myself to ask for help.”
Through Naval Medical Center San Diego's Health and Wellness Department, he learned the importance of staying engaged. In that sense, his favorite pastime became more than just a game.
“Baseball kept my hands busy, a lot.”
Even while the sport was on hold.
In March, he saw an opportunity to do something he'd wanted to since he was a kid.
“I'm gonna live out my dream doggone it,” Luke said. “I'm gonna build my own wiffle ball park.”
The time he normally devoted to watching the Padres, was instead spent bringing the game to his own backyard. Luke said he put three to four hours of work in on a regular basis.
What resulted was part diamond, part shrine - paying homage to his favorite game, and his favorite team. San Diego's stars and baseball icons are represented. The team’s retired numbers are on display, as is Jerry Coleman’s infamous phrase. Current players are present, and you can bet Tony Gwynn is there too.
He built foul poles and fences. There’sa scoreboard, and some house rules. Every surface is covered with cards, posters, bobbleheads, Padres logos and just about any memorabilia you could imagine.
He didn't just create a diamond, he built something truly special.
“I want this to be the world’s best wiffle ball park ever.”
But for Luke, the best part of it all is the opportunity to share his passion with his wife, son and daughter. In those moments Luke is surrounded by the two things that have pulled him through the challenges of the last few months.
“My backyard and my family,” Luke explained, with tears in his eyes.
When he's there, with them, these days aren't so bad.
“This ballpark has brought light to an otherwise dark season.”