The triumphs, defeats and the power of fellowship were on full display at San Quentin’s Inaugural Athletics Assn. Banquet.
Kevin Rumon, volunteer track coach for the 1000 Mile Club and cancer survivor was honored. He was recognized for his resilience. While battling cancer and going through chemo, Rumon defied the odds and returned every Friday for the club races.
“I believed I had to surround myself with positive people,” said Rumon. “I get a hundred times more out of this than I give and that’s hard to explain to others.
“People would like to paint the world as good and bad or black and white, but it’s also filled with good people who made bad decisions,” Rumon added.
The Jan. 11 event recognized volunteers and participants.
After Rumon’s emotional speech he stood in for team sponsor Frank Ruona, who had a prior engagement and could not attend, to pass out the club certificates.
Longtime volunteer Don Smith took home the Lifetime Achievement Award, which has been officially named after him. The head of the Prison Sports Ministry, Smith has been volunteering in the prison for more than 20 years.
The organization brings in outside teams for basket- ball, football and softball games. One of their mottos is “fellowship for Jesus Christ through sports.” Smith received a standing ovation as he received the top honor in front of his wife, his two adult children and more than 200 incarcerated athletes and guests.
“I think I’m the only one here volunteering to do a life sentence,” Smith said jokingly. “I can’t accept this award alone, this is for the hundreds of people who have given up their Saturdays to make this program happen.”
“I think Don’s involvement here is a privilege. He is always talking about the guys,” said his wife. “I see how he has grown; he has a tender heart for the men here. It’s good to see how he has become a part of the San Quentin community.
Andre Jackson, flag football sponsor for the “Chosen” team, which visits the prison, added “What Don is doing is remarkable, the sacrifices he makes – I wouldn’t be volunteering here if it wasn’t for him.”
Mike Kremer, the baseball sponsor and volunteer and Aaron “Showtime” Taylor, San Quentin’s resident sports announcer, emceed the event. Kremer sported a black tuxedo, giving the ceremony the feel of an award show. Taylor’s comic humor and sharp wit kept the mood light and entertaining.
“Oh man, introducing ‘Donnie Fabulous’ as the first recipient of an award named after him, it was ‘ginormous;’ Don is my brother from the universal mother,” said Taylor. “Don has been a huge piece to what we do here with sports, and is a very caring person.
“I haven’t forgot Don. The last time you were on the court, you got your shot blocked,” Taylor added, ribbing Smith.
The inmate track members, fresh off the season-ending marathon, walked with big smiles to the stage. Markelle Taylor took home the top prize for setting another record for the event and ultimately qualifying for the up-incoming Boston Marathon (once he paroles). “Sports is viewed as just entertainment but not if you are participating in them, because it can show you your weaknesses and how to persevere,” said Rumon.
The tennis team honored Martin, 87, their venerable volunteer, who in return passed out appreciation awards to the group.
Dwight Kennedy, the inmate coach of the “All-Madden” flag football team, thanked Kent Philpott, long time baseball volunteer, for helping to resurrect the football program. He handed Jeremy Lewis III the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for the team. Lewis led the squad in touchdowns and interceptions for the season.
Soccer player Tare “Cancun” Beltranchuc, thanked outside volunteer Andrew Crawford for his tireless work to bring the program to the level of the other sports programs. He spoke passionately about how his teammates are benefitting from the new interaction with the outside teams.
Dion Demerrill, catcher for the prison softball team the Hardtimers, provided one of the touching moments of the ceremony, when he received the Most Improved Player award.
“I feel real great about this accomplishment. It’s a real big achievement to me. I thought I wasn’t going to play sports again,” said Demerrill. “In 2016, I was diagnosed with Lupus. I thought it was over for me.
“By them bringing all the sports together to have an achievement appreciation ceremony like this means the world to me. I feel on top of the world,” he added.
The inaugural event has now been added to the history of San Quentin sports. These rehabilitative programs will move in to a new era of building bridges with the outside community and making productive returning citizens. And all the San Quentin’s sporting teams will be doing it in brand new uniforms, thanks to outside donations.
“This was really inspiring to see that both men in blue and the people on the outside are here together,” said Ninna Gaensler, a representative of San Francisco public radio station KALW-FM. “It makes me want to put on my running shoes.”
MVP – Brendan Terrell Cy Young award – Rob
Rookie of the Year – Juan
Inmate Coach of the Year
– Richard Williams Willie Mack award (Inspi- rational Player of the Year) – Anthony “Saadiq” Redwood
Most Improve Player – Montrell McDuffie
The honorary member award – 90 year old, Ruth
Grace for team support
San Quentin Warriors “Keep the Faith Award” –
“I can Do that Award” –
Joshua “JB” Burton “Let My Game Speak for itself Award (MVP) – Allen
“Lead from the Front
Award” – Anthony Ammons “Give Me My Money
Award” for Hustle and determination – Jamal
SAN QUENTIN KINGS
Most Inspiration Player – Tare “Cancun” Beltranchuc
Intramural League MVP’s – Kevin Fornette and Allen McIntosh