SQ Giants Captain Anthony “T-Tone” Denard was a rising baseball prodigy on his way to the professional baseball league when he fell from grace, making a decision that derailed his life course forever— second degree murder.
Now serving a 40 year to life sentence at San Quentin, Denard has had another opportunity of playing the game that he calls his first love – baseball—a lighthearted break from his remorse.
Timothy Hicks: Thanks for sitting down with me today. I know you busy with programs. Let’s get right into it. When did you start playing baseball?
Anthony Denard: I remember chasing baseballs around ever since I was five years old, or before. I used to play catch with my brother. It was him who got me into baseball. I played in the Babe Ruth little league when I got old enough.
TH: Could you tell me about that?
AD: Yeah, my mom got us all into sports but it was my brother Gene that used to take me to all the games. He taught me how to handle a ball and throw pitches. He took me to the baseball camps where they noticed my skill-set. I went to the Little League Worlds Series in Korea with team USA.
TH: Did you continue to play as you grew older? What was it like for you growing up in the rough neighbors of Oakland and having to choose the direction of your life? I know that must have been hard for you.
AD: I did continue to play until I went to high school. I played out field for Emery High and I also went to Laney JC for two years until I got injured. During that time I got scouted by some Major League teams, the Minnesota Twins and then later by the Arizona Diamond Backs. I thought I had made it.
TH: That must have had you feeling like you was on cloud nine. Wow, what happened to those opportunities?
AD: Living in the ghetto can bring some trying times. I lived in the 65th Village. It was home to me and my family. Although I felt safe and we never needed for anything, the neighborhood was where everybody was struggling, and surviving was the main thing going on. I ended up making a very bad decision and ended up losing everything. All I wanted to do was buy my mother a house and get us out of the hood. I let the opportunity slip right through my fingers. I always knew that one day my living conditions and my desire to help my family would eventually bring me to prison.
TH: Can you briefly tell me about what brought you to prison?
AD: Yeah, I was involved in an altercation that resulted in me shooting and killing an unarmed man. [It is] the worst decision I ever made in my life. I got sentenced to 40 years to life for that crime.
TH: That’s a sad story to fall from grace like that after having the opportunity of a lifetime. Did you think that you would ever get to play baseball again? And how did the opportunity arrive for you to continue to play the game you love?
AD: I feel like I let a lot of people down. Because the path was laid by my brother and I didn’t take full advantage of it. However, when I was at another prison I read the SQNEWS and saw all of the programs there, including the baseball program and there was no other prison that I knew of that had it. So I transferred there and joined the team, the rest is history.
TH: What advice would you give the youth that may be in the shoes you were in at their age that are at a crossroad in making tough decisions?
AD: Stay away from certain places, do better in school, put the guns down and take advantage of the blessings you have in front of you.