The visiting Sonoma Birds locked horns with the San Quentin A’s baseball team in an Aug. 22 defensive battle. The Birds, however, fell to the home squad 7-3, after a late inning meltdown.
“These guys are good,” said Steve Solis, Birds head coach. “When we were invited here, we jumped on it.
“We came without having knowledge of prison life, but it was an opportunity to give these guys (prisoners) a sense of normalcy—whatever that means,” Solis added.
The Birds are a part of an expanding baseball program at San Quentin. This is their first year playing in the prison. The Birds consist of two teams, the Cardinals and Blue Jays from the Sonoma County Senior Men’s League, the 45 and over division.
“Walking in here you would think it was a university, until you see the big barred doors,” said John Grech, of the Birds. “I was surprised seeing so many guys walking around with books.”
Grech, a high school history teacher, recognized the effects of San Quentin’s Prison University Project (PUP) on the prison culture.
Grech also made one of the spectacular catches of the game. He caught a deep ball in centerfield navigating a thick track of rocks, two metal tables bolted to the ground and pedestrians for a final out in the fifth. Most players would have let the ball drop for a ground-rule double for a ball hit in that area.
Throughout, both teams made driving catches and turned double plays with professional skill.
The game stayed tied 3-3 until the seventh inning. The Birds walked two A’s batters, leaving Branden Terrell to score both runners with a line drive double down the center field gap. After another walk, A’s big Rob Polzin smashed a deep ball to left field for a double, adding two more runs to seal the lead 7-3.
Gary “Cool Aid” Townes, A’s pitcher, struck out a batter and put enough spin on the ball to cause two fly balls to close out the game.
“It’s about the love of the game for me,” Townes said. “I get heated when I don’t play more, especially when I think I can help out the team. But this is the best team I’ve been on for the past five years. I will continue to work hard and help us improve.”
PPI’s “Correctional Control: Incarceration and Supervision by State” is the first report to aggregate data on all types of correctional control nationwide.