In a fierce battle, the San Quentin All-Stars baseball team edged out the visiting Bay Area Cubs 8-7 in an exhibition game honoring Correctional Lt. Sam Robinson.
This special day was a way for the team to show their appreciation and recognize Lt. Robinson’s commitment to providing a rehabilitative sports program.
“Lt. Robinson has always gone the extra mile to make sure we had a game,” said Terry Burton, All-Stars incarcerated assistant coach. “He has been the best liaison between the administration and the program because he has always been fair with us.”
Isaiah Bonilla-Thompson, All-Stars inmate assistant coach and pitcher, added “Lt. Robinson has been a major support and help through the challenges. He makes sure the people get cleared to come in and he helps publicize the program for those who want to experience this.”
The team presented Lt. Robinson a baseball bat signed by all the members, and Robinson threw out the first pitch to start the game.
The All-Stars took a quick 5-0 lead in the first inning. David Fraire started the rally with a line-drive double through the left-field gap.
Tamon Halfin singled to move Fraire to third, setting up a Trevor Bird double to deep center field to score both runners.
Don Spence reached base on an error, and James Wortham singled. Then newcomer Branden Terrell smashed a double to bring in the runners.
Rubin Harper singled to score Terrell, before the Cubs were able to adjust defensively to get out the inning.
The All-Stars extended the lead to 7-0 in the bottom of the fifth.
“It has been a good season,” said Fraire. “I got a chance to get familiar with people and learned that everybody’s got a story. Communication is the key that helps you to relax a little — it feels good to smile and not to have to mean mug.”
Elliot Smith, a volunteer sponsor and Cubs head coach, added, “We want to build a program on fun that includes everybody from the players, umpires, scorekeepers, all the way down to the hecklers.
“I’m glad Sam is getting recognized for his work throughout the year. The outside community needs to get this experience with the inmates, to get to know who they are before they are released.”
In the sixth, Smith singled to rally the Cubs. Steve Gray doubled to score the pitch runner for Smith. After another player singled, Dan Rodgers smashed a two-run homer over the left-field gate. They scored two more times to close the lead 7-6.
“I was looking for the fast ball,” said Rodgers. “This is a competitive atmosphere, but fun. I’ve never been to a place where you hit a homerun and the other team gives you high-fives. That says something about this program to have respect at that level.”
Gray added, “Coming here is my escape from the other leagues I play in. It brings you back to reality and gives the guys a sense of normalcy for their transition back to society.”
All-Stars scored one run in the eighth before they were stopped. The Cubs answered in the ninth with a run but went out on a pop-fly to end the Aug. 13 game.
Old-time S.Q. Coach Kent Philpott attended the game. He coached back in 2000 when the team was known as the S.Q. Pirates.
“I never had any fear coming here,” said Philpott. “I grew accustomed to dealing with the guys and understood what they did was just a snapshot in time.”
Philpott has been coming in since 1969 as a pastor and he shared his history about working with Chaplain Earl Smith and the baseball program.
“Back in ‘69 it was a real dangerous group of guys; you didn’t have that many Blacks then,” said Philpott. “Then in 1985 you had a different group of guys. Now San Quentin is the pearl of the prisons and for guys to make it here, you know they are working on their change.”
All-Stars inmate Assistant Coach John “Yah Ya” Parratt added, “We are thankful and feel blessed that Lt. Robinson takes out his time for this program. He could be home with his family on these weekends.”
Steve Reichardt, a volunteer and sponsor, concluded, “Sam is a best friend of the program; we couldn’t ask for a better person in his position. It’s an honor to call him a friend.”