08/07/2004 5:28 PM ET
Junior Giants honored at SBC
4,500 participants from far and wide attend
SAN FRANCISCO -- Thousands of Junior Giants got to see the game of a lifetime Saturday afternoon at SBC Park.
By Mark Thoma / MLB.com
Greg Maddux won his 300th career game, while 4,500 Junior Giants ages 5 to 18 from each of the organization's 62 participating leagues -- from places as far away as Sparks, Nevada -- got the chance to see a game at SBC Park.
Almost half of the Junior Giants program's 10,000 participants and 1,300 volunteer coaches paraded around the field before the game and were honored in pregame ceremonies in a fitting celebration of the organization's 10th birthday.
"It's growing faster than ever," Junior Giants commissioner Vida Blue said of the Giants Community Fund's flagship program, which has grown from 18 communities hosting leagues into 62 rural and inner-city locales in California, Oregon and Nevada.
In 2002, Junior Giants was named the "Single Best Program" in professional sports by the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame, and from the look on the Junior Giants' faces on Saturday, it's easy to see why.
"At least a third of them have never been to a game before," said Frances Larose of the Giants Community Fund. "And the kids, you should see them light up."
"At least a third of them have never been to a game before. And the kids, you should see them light up."
-- Frances Larose, of the Giants Community Fund
As part of the pregame festivities, Blue honored Junior Giants Achiever of the Year Gwyneth Baynham of the Ukiah Junior Giants. Baynham has spent three years in the program and was recognized for her community service. Idries Aza-Pearson was named Junior Giants Mentor of the Year for his work in organizing the first-year Bayview/Hunters Point YMCA Junior Giants.
"We like to consider them more mentors than coaches," explained Kati Schmidt of the Giants Community Fund.
It's a fitting emphasis for a baseball program that describes itself as non-competitive. Coaches place emphasis not on winning games but on building character and self-esteem -- all while having fun participating in America's pastime, of course.
As a non-profit organization, the Junior Giants rely on volunteers to run their leagues. Fans interested in donating to or volunteering for the Junior Giants can call 1-877-JR-GIANT or visit the Junior Giants page.
Mark Thoma is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.