Acting Warden Oak Smith threw out the first pitch for the San Quentin A’s baseball opener on May 13, twirling his signature toothpick from the side of his mouth.
After making the rounds and slapping high-fives with all the players, the warden stood on the mound in his ready-to-play stance, cocked his leg and delivered. The southpaw’s fastball broke home plate with a strike.
The pitch had some heat on it as it impacted catcher Matt Negus’s glove. Smack! Smith’s wife Michelle and PIO G. Berry greeted him on the sideline as he stepped away with swagger.
Since his appointment as warden, Smith has sincerely supported positive programs by participating in all major events and sports programs at the prison. Smith has not just talked about support, he has shown himself a huge supporter of the re-imagined San Quentin that Gov. Gavin Newsom has in mind.
“It’s not about me, it’s about you guys. We are here for support. It’s not about me, the governor or any manager, it’s about you guys.” Expressing his perspective of San Quentin versus his previous positions at other prisons, the warden said, “I spent 17 years keeping my back against the wall.”
The warden has worked in the prison system for decades. Level IV prisons and other facilities kept him distant from exploring rehabilitative experiences. “It’s an exciting time to be here [at San Quentin] with the planning of the governor’s re-imagination idea of this prison,” Mrs. Smith said. “We always want to support. Because I didn’t see incarceration like this here it’s a blessing to see all the good going on here.”
Mrs. Smith helped distribute the cotton candy to the visitors and their kids in the visiting room on Easter Day. She also volunteers with the Bob Goff foundation that does a lot of humanitarian work in prisons.
A passion for seeing incarcerated persons have second chances has turned into reality for the warden and his wife. “I want to support you guys and the supporters and volunteers that support,” said Mrs. Smith.
The warden does not think of himself as a big sports fan, and during sport seasons, he only watches the playoffs, but he believes in sports at San Quentin. “To see you guys take advantage of these opportunities is encouragement,” he said. “You can be my neighbor one day.”
After taking in a few innings of the A’s game, the warden, his wife and PIO Berry, also a sports fan, visited the basketball court and caught the second half of the San Quentin Warriors playing the longtime outside volunteers Green team led by Bill Epling and Prison Sports Ministries.