BY JEFF BROOKS
The San Quentin Giants squared up in their traditional Opening Day game against the Oaks/Cubs and on a day filled with pageantry, the Giants came away with their first Opening Day loss since their re-inception in 1994.
On Saturday, April 17, the day began for the Giants when the team gathered for their individual and team photos. Assistant Coach Mike Deeble passed out new S.Q. embroidered baseball hats that were donated by West Coast Sporting Goods, and th e team gathered for their photos on the San Quentin Field of Dreams.
The day’s introductions began with the Color Guard from the Vietnam Veterans Group of S.Q. marching in from right field to present the colors. Inmate Drew Schroller sang the National Anthem.
Inmate Chris “Stretch” Rich, who is recovering from an off-season knee surgery, and who has for years been the starting day pitcher for the Giants, was encouraged by his fellow players to throw out a first pitch.
TWO FIRST PITCHES
“It was nice that the players recognized it was not the same without me pitching on Opening Day,” said Rich. “Throwing out the Opening Day ball before the Warden was an honor.” Warden Vincent S. Cullen then took the mound and threw out the ceremonial Opening Day pitch, a low ball that squirted between the catcher’s legs.
“This is the fun part of the job,” said Cullen, who played in Little League when he was a boy. “It has been 28 years since I played slow pitch softball,” he said. When asked how he thought he would do throwing out the Opening Day pitch, he said, “There were multiple people who have helped me out ahead of time by throwing with me, and I did warm up today because I didn’t want to go out there cold,” he said.
San Quentin is one of the few prisons in the state with a hardball baseball team, and it is one of only a few in the entire nation that plays baseball games against outside teams.
GLAD TO BE HERE
All the team equipment has been donated by the San Francisco Giants clubhouse manager Mike Murphy. There was even a movie made about the team called “The Bad Boys of Summer.”
While large Canadian geese milled about, Elliot Smith, Manager of the Oaks/Cubs said, “I am very glad to be here, every year I play here I feel lucky.”
San Quentin prison officials who make the baseball program possible were on hand: Coach Don DeNevi, Principal Ted Roberts, Vice Principal Frank Kellum, Community Partnership Manager Laura Bowman Salzsieder, Administrative Assistant, Lieutenant Rudy Luna, and Public Information Officer Sam Robinson. All were given baseballs signed by the Giants to show thanks for their support of the program.
The media was on hand, represented by San Francisco’s KQED radio (88.5 fm), KALW (91.7 fm), SF Chronicle’s sports writer, Scott Ostler, and numerous photographers. “I really appreciate the game of baseball,” said Ostler. “I have a real love for the game. I remember when I was younger and putting on the stirrup socks and the feelings I had.”
AN EARLY LEAD
After a short pep talk by Coach Kevin Loughlin, the Giants took the field. Matt White took the mound, striking out the first two batters and getting the third batter to pop-out on a wicked knuckle-curve to finish the top of the first inning.
The Giants took an early 1-0 lead off starter Ricky Castillo, who was throwing good heat for the Oaks/Cubs. The Oaks/Cubs came back in the second inning to tie it up. The Giants added one run in the third inning when third baseman, Kevin Driscoll led off the inning with a double and shortstop Mario Ellis hit a double to score Driscoll.
The Oaks/Cubs answered with three runs in the fourth inning for a 4-2 lead, but the Giants answered in the bottom of the fifth inning when Kevin Henry hit a three run homer to take the lead 5-4.
The game seesawed back and forth until a pitching change was made by Giants Manager, Kent Philpott. In the top of the sixth the Oaks/Cubs tacked on six runs, adding one more run in the eighth and five more in the ninth.
Going into the bottom of the ninth inning and losing by a score of 16-5, the Giants rallied, scoring two quick runs, when last year’s season MVP, Redd Casey, hit a three run homer run, bringing the final score to 16-10.
After the game both teams congratulated one another and exchanged high-fives, then they met on the pitching mound where inmate Dave Baker thanked the Oaks/Cubs for coming in, and then he led the teams in a short prayer.
The SQ Giants season runs to August 28, and they will play approximately 25 games. As we go to press, the S.Q. Giants record is 4-4.