The red-hot San Quentin A’s baseball team wrapped up their season with a fierce battle against an alumni in late October. After 20 years, Brain McGrath walked back into San Quentin with his Fresno HardCor team. The game ended with a stunning finish, where McGrath and company fell 16-15 to his old alma mater.
“It feels better coming back this time because I get to go home,” said McGrath, in deep reflection. “When I was in–I knew I had to do something good for my daughter. At least 80 percent of people come back to prison and I made up my mind to be among that 20 percent.”
McGrath served time in the prison in the late 90s and played for the then San Quentin Giants.
The HardCor took a 15-14 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. The A’s Zach Moore came up to bat. He worked his way into a 2-2 count with a runner on second base.
Moore found his pitch and smacked a line drive up the left-field gap to score the winning run. The A’s team erupted and celebrated like they just won the World Series. The team then drenched Moore with a Gatorade shower, which actually was a cooler of ice cold water.
“It was surreal,” said Moore. “The last time I’ve batted on the street I was in the same position, but I struck out. So this is a fitting end for me. I will take this with me forever.”
Moore was found suitable for parole and expects to be released in a few months. He credits the baseball program for teaching him how to deal with life’s ups-and-downs and anxieties.
The HardCor rallied in the ninth, down 14-11. Greg Donato and Tony Criado both singled. Ron Rivas smashed a deep double to the center-field gate scoring both runners. He scored off a Ron Henslee single for 15- 14 lead.
HardCor threatened to blow the game wide open with the bases loaded, but the A’s pitcher worked his way out of the inning.
The A’s Montrell McDuff- ie doubled to kicked off the comeback. Juan Navarro doubled to score McDuffie for the 15-15 tie. Moore knocked in Navarro for the win. The A’s finished the season with a 22-12-3 record.
“San Quentin is known around the world and now I can say I’ve been here,” said Criado, who works at Avenal State Prison, as a Dental Health Specialist. “This baseball program gives them a sense of normalcy. Some of these guys will get a second chance at life, the question for them is what they are going to do with it.”
Donato, who said he played in the minor leagues with the Atlanta Braves, added, “I have connected with so many people through baseball, even these walls didn’t stop us from connecting.”
As the game closed, the surreal look on McGrath’s face was still visible as he processed his return.
“I had a good situation on the streets not like most people inside,” said McGrath. “I want people to know the men inside are human beings and going to pay their debt to society. Hopefully when they get out they can get jobs.”
The A’s ended their sea- son with a winning record. They added more games and teams to their schedule. The program is set to have a bigger 2019.
“If you are in the prison system and you like baseball, make your way to San Quentin,” said Mike Kremer, the program’s outside sponsor. “It’s a baseball thing. It’s a life thing. It’s a brotherhood of special guys.
“This is year was full of memorable experiences for both the inmate players and those who came in from the outside. We are looking forward for 2019.”