Mesa names park's ball field for sergeant killed by drunk wrong-way driver

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on May 22, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Updated Thursday, May 22 at 5:20 PM

Map: Guerrero Rotary Park

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Sergeant Brandon Mendoza Baseball Field

MESA, Ariz. -- The city is Mesa is honoring a fallen police sergeant by naming the baseball field at the park he worked so tirelessly to clean up in his honor.

Sgt. Brandon Mendoza spearheaded the revitalization of Guerrero Rotary Park, making it a safe place for local families to gather and enjoy, and now the baseball field there will bear his name.

"Naming the baseball field in memory of Brandon is a great way to honor him," Police Chief Frank Milstead said Thursday." He loved helping the baseball team which plays there and he was truly a team player for the Mesa Police Department. This announcement truly reflects on the type of person and police officer he was."

Mendoza died on May 12 after a wrong-way driver plowed head-on into his car. Mendoza had just finished his tour and was on his way home. The driver who hit him, Raul Silva Corona, was drunk when his 35-mile wrong-way drive ended in tragedy.

Hours after Mendoza's death, Milstead described him as an "iconic figure" in the department. He promoted Mendoza to sergeant just days later.

As news of Mendoza's death and the circumstances leading to it spread, the community rallied around the Mesa Police Department, eager to honor the man who had served them with such dedication. Armed with flowers, candles, cards and signs, area residents created a memorial to Mendoza at the park he loved. Some of them knew him personally. Some had never met him.

"The incredible outpouring of support from the local community after Sgt. Mendoza's death is a testament to the impact he had as a Mesa Police Officer," Mayor Alex Finter said. "I look forward to the day we can visit the baseball field at Guerrero Rotary Park, reflect on his life and see the kids that he inspired every day."

In addition to naming the baseball field for Mendoza, the Foundation for Mesa Parks and Recreation also is launching a fundraising campaign specifically for continued improvements to the field. Covered dugouts, an irrigation system and new concrete work are planned.

Since Mendoza's death, the city, the Police Department and community leaders have been discussing a permanent way to honor Mendoza and his exemplary work.

"I can't think of a better way to honor Sgt. Mendoza than for his name to grace this field," Vice Mayor Chris Glover said. "The baseball field and this community meant so much to him; it is fitting that his name be forever linked with it. I am so glad that his legacy and his commitment to the neighborhood and the park will be honored this way."

"I am so proud and appreciative that you all care enough to name this ball field after him," Mendoza's mother, Mary Ann Mendoza, said Thursday. "He will be remembered in the area he made a big difference in."

To contribute to the effort to preserve Mendoza's legacy to his city, visit www.mesaparksfoundation.org. Click on the Donate Now button and in the Purpose field, type "Sergeant Brandon Mendoza Memorial Fund."

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