John Trino called. Talking to John Trino is not a quiet event. Trino is to enthusiasm what chocolate is to dessert.

Trino, a 77-year-old produce packer from Arvin, had an agenda. When Trino has an agenda, buckle up because you’re about to go on a conversational ride, which might have turbulence.

The agenda was two items long. Two sounds short but wasn’t. Trino talked, I listened — for an hour — but I wasn’t sorry I had.

Trino talked about his recent bout of esophageal cancer where he was all but dead, buried, eulogized and forgotten.

“Cannabis saved my life,” he said. “I had radiation but couldn’t swallow and my weight went from 230 to 178. I had to eat so I could resume treatment.”

The doctors prescribed medical marijuana. Trino was counseled as to the best dose and type by one of his sons, whom he had thrown out of the house years earlier for smoking some. Within minutes of taking a few puffs, Trino was able to swallow and take nourishment.

“I was dead without it,” said Trino. “All my life I thought anybody who had anything to do with marijuana should be locked up and have the key dropped in a deep lake. However, when you’re looking death in the eye, you’ll try anything.”

Trino is in remission (not because of the cannabis but because it allowed him to continue treatment) and has become a spokesman for esophageal cancer and cannabis.

Item one was a big item. Item one could have filled most agendas. Item one flowed into item two so I rechecked my seatbelt, looked at my itinerary and adjusted my arrival time.

Trino wanted to talk about the Kern County Soccer Park, something about which he is passionate. In 1977, Trino leased 120 acres on Alfred Harrell Highway from the county and then enlisted a core of soccer enthusiasts like Bill Baker, Dan Imes, Richard Peoples, Trice Harvey, Gene Tackett, Mary K. Shell, John Gotjen and countless others to build the park. The opening, in October of 1988, included an appearance by Pele, arguably the greatest soccer player of all time.

The park is easy to forget about. It’s in the puckerbrush and, unless your kid is playing soccer or you live in Rio Bravo or the Tuscany development, years can go without paying it a mind.

Most of us think the park just happened. Sprouted there overnight like spring mushrooms. Appeared for our use and pleasure and then shimmied back into the horizon.

However, it has has taken an enormous amount of effort from Trino, volunteers and the soccer community to make it fly. The park is run by a nonprofit foundation Trino set up and although it’s received some nice gifts through the years, the park is financed by the $50-game fees and the $6 parking.

The $6 parking. Who hasn’t complained about that? We did. However, without the parking fees, the fields return to squirrel and rabbit habitat.

The park is magnificent. It has 21 fields, four major concession stands with men’s and women’s bathrooms, a 60-foot trailer that operates as as a staff office and tournament headquarters, an information and tournament center, an employee rest area, a beautiful new gate, two lanes in and out and 700 mature trees.

More than 300,000 players a year use its fields, which adds up to millions when you do the math.

Sounds good. Like things are going well (besides the $165,000 that was embezzled by an employee a few years ago). So why is Trino calling?

“I’m tired,” he said. “Lately, we‘ve had a rash of burglaries at the park and sometimes I wonder whether the community realizes what a great amenity this is for Kern County.”

Trino, who may not be universally liked because he can be somewhat contentious, is right. The park is a good thing for Kern County and we need more amenities rather than less.

Should Trino take a knee and say “No mas,” it will behoove this community to pick up the ball, kick the ball or do whatever you do to the ball to keep it in play.

When Trino is gone, his agenda could and should become the community's even if our children have grown up and left town and haven’t chased a ball in eons.

We have the Kaiser Permanente Sports Village, which has eight fields, and numerous parks around town where soccer is played but the Kern County Soccer Park is the big daddy.

Not only is it the big daddy but it affords wide open space. Open space where kids can play. Open space where we can watch our kids play and we are a better community when we can do both.

Althought the soccer park seems like it’s been there forever, it hasn’t. This is no automatic. Good things never are.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.

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