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Local Spotlight: Junior Giants in San Francisco

by David Jacobson

Ripple explores themes of mentorship, an important part of the WEXL ethos. The article is about the San Francisco Giants Community Fund’s Junior Giants program, which offers free organized baseball to underserved youth. Tapping into the highly personal and emotional impact experienced by diverse coaches and the diverse youth they serve, the article hammers home the importance of role models.

 

Read the full article here.

Ripple: How The Junior Giants Are Making Waves In Their Community

Across McCovey Cove from where the San Francisco Giants splash down their longest home runs, baseballs and shouts from kids launching their own splash hits fly over the fence of Barry Bonds Junior Giants Field. Unlike the waters directly behind AT&T Park, there are no kayakers here speeding to scoop up souvenirs — the ripples in the water from the balls the Junior Giants hit are left to linger.

But the impact of the Giants Community Fund’s Junior Giants program — the ripple effect it has — is impossible to measure.

You can consider the awards: Major League Baseball’s Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence, ESPN’s Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award, and the Patterson Award, among many others.

Statistically, the baseball and character-education program for 5-to-18-year-olds — free (largely thanks to partnership from Bank of America), co-ed, non-competitive, and dedicated to underserved youth — has served more than 290,000 since its inception in 1994. Currently, 91 Junior Giants leagues from as far north as Medford, Oregon to as far south as Lompoc, California and east to Reno, Nevada serve 25,000 youth per year, according to Paul Giuliacci, Deputy Director.

Still, even the staunchest Sabermetrician knows that in baseball, as in life, statistics tell only part of the story. The rest of the story comes from these young student-athletes, and the committed, caring adults who run leagues that save lives.

A Home for the Homeless

A great strength of Junior Giants is inclusiveness. Many Commissioners report taking far-flung families from 30 or 40 miles away into their leagues. San Mateo Junior Giants Commissioner Lisa Totola-Joachim, whose operation also is run by the city’s Police Athletic League, turns nobody away.

 

“This year, about 10 percent of our families were homeless,” she says. “Those kids come to Junior Giants with a feeling of, ‘I belong.’ Even without a home, they get a feeling of being rooted and grounded. Lots of kids miss out on sports because their families can’t afford it, or they don’t have an address to write down on a registration form. But kids are so resilient; they show up smiling, anyway.”

 

One exception was a girl whose father “had left,” and whose mother was “facing legal issues” and living out of a car, Totola-Joachim recalls. “She was quiet, timid, afraid to interact. Because her dad had been in interactions with the police, she was afraid of us. But now she comes running up to us to give us hugs. Her mom says, ‘A summer without Junior Giants isn’t a summer.’ Running a league can be hard work, but that’s what gets us up in the morning.”

Read the full article here.

David Jacobson is a Marketing and Communications Consultant for WEXL. He wrote this story for UpMetrics’s blog, Data for Good. Photo courtesy of Kendee Vance.

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