I talked to the San Quentin A’s pitcher Gary “Cool Aid” Townes about him being compared to one of the old-time greats and oldest pitcher to ever pitch baseball in the Negro League, Satchel Paige. Townes has been with the SQ A’s since 2012 and he is the oldest pitcher on the team.
TH: Let’s get right into this. You are one of the SQ A’s main pitchers right?
GT: Yes, it’s like three of us but I’m the oldest of them all.
TH: How old are you?
GT: I’m 56 years old.
TH: Wow, that is impressive to still be throwing fastballs at that age. You have coaches, players, and other people calling you the Satchel Paige of SQ. How did you get that comparison and how does it make you feel?
GT: Well, it’s an honor to be compared to one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game. The trip part is that it was a CO who called me that first. Then it moved on to the players and coaches and it stuck with me.
TH: That’s great. You were with the team when they went 38 and 2 last season before COVID hit the prison. The record was amazing, almost a perfect season. How did you guys lose those two games?
GT: I pitched 11 of those games and I was responsible for the loss of one of those two losses. Being one of the primary pitchers, I can just recall me having a bad game that day. I know I could’ve done better.
TH: We all have bad days. But athletes press on for the love of the game. When did you fall in love with baseball?
GT: I learned the game from my Grandpa. He taught me the game. He played in the Negro League. That inspired me. My Grandpa was real special to me. Baseball has always been like family to me. I just love the game.
TH: Why do you say it’s like family?
GT: Since being on the A’s, I grew to love these guys like family. When I was going through some personal issues they rallied around me and supported me with love. My niece had got killed in 2006 by a guy and it hit me real hard. They was there for me through it all.
TH: Hard times hit Satchel Paige, too. I can imagine all of the racism he had to face in those times and I can imagine his team rallying around him, too. You ever pitched a no-hitter before and do you have a special pitch you like to throw?
GT: I never pitched a no-hitter before but I did go six innings no-hitter before, though. All my pitches are special to me. I have no special one. I throw sliders, curveballs, etc. I like to keep the batter off-balance. They don’t know what to expect.
TH: When COVID hit the season and the game you love had to stop play right after a 38-2 winning season, how did you feel when COVID hit? And do you think the team will get a record like that again? If so, how are y’all preparing for the next season?
GT: There’s not a team in SQ history that done what we did before. But when COVID hit I was depressed. It took away the one thing that kept us being active. It felt like it took an old flame away from me. (Laughs) I’m optimistic about the next season, though — or if we even gonna have one. However, I’m preparing myself, just in case we have a season. We working out and having inner-team games. All the veterans are minding our conduct and showing the newcomers our leadership roles. But that winning season was because of all the coaches.