JUNIOR GIANTS HALL OF FAME
The Junior Giants Hall of Fame honors outstanding past contributions, recognizes current achievements and showcases our leagues, coaches and lead organizers who have helped to build the Junior Giants program over the years.
The individuals inducted into the Hall of Fame have given their time, energy and undying enthusiasm to make the Junior Giants program what it is today.
OFFICER JUAN REYES, SAN JOSE PAL
Officer Reyes was one of the original league commissioners of the Junior Giants program -- more than 2 decades ago. Through his work with the San Jose Police Activities league, he saw a need to start a program for Special Needs players. These young people and their families wanted a program that could provide opportunity and camaraderie. Juan made it happen through the San Jose PAL league. Even though Juan passed the baton along to new commissioners in recent years, he continues to attend the games to lend his support and be a loving presence for his community.
Jessica Sparks spoke at the Play Ball Lunch on behalf of her father, Officer Reyes, who has ALS: "When my father started the Junior Giants program at San Jose PAL the goal was to fill a need for over 80 athletes in the community with special needs. In my dad's words, 'PAL is a place that provides sports to ALL children of ALL abilities. PAL is a program for everyone.'"
KENDEE VANCE, LOS MOLINOS JUNIOR GIANTS
Kendee has spent over 10 years as a coach for Junior Giants. Her passion for the game of baseball and the Junior Giants program is evident every time she steps on the field. She loves the game, but most of all she love the kids. She treats each child in the program equally as an individual and truly makes every effort to instill in them the four bases of character development. She places the kids as base coaches to build up their confidence and leadership skills; the kids then give encouragement to their teammates as they round the bases.
We all know it takes hard work and dedication to make any program successful; as a coach and a co-commissioner, Kendee works non-stop both behind the scenes and on the field to make the Junior Giants program so successful in Los Molinos.
Recognized for her dedication to the kids and program, Kendee was the recipient of the Junior Giants Willie Mac Award in 2010 and she has been a guest speaker at both the Willie Mac Luncheon and the Play Ball Luncheon. Kendee is also involved in the Love Harder Program; a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to educating and putting a stop to bullying and acts of violence.
She donates many hours on and off season and often states, "It's the best non-paying job I've ever had or ever will have!"
OFFICER ANGEL GONZALEZ
Officer Angel Gonzalez is a vital part of the Salinas Junior Giants program. Over the past 8 years, his leadership and dedication to the program is unparalleled. Though he has a very busy schedule as a police officer, he dedicates countless hours to assuring the success of the program and makes it his goal that any youth who want to participate, can - and they do! He oversees a league of 1,100 players and volunteers. Beyond administering the program, he made it his goal to increase participation in the reading program - and for the past few years, the league has attained 100% participation. He has a great rapport with the kids and inspires them to want to be better people.
Mike Rodriguez has been with the Mt. Shasta Junior Giants program since its inception in 1994 as an advocate for youth and youth sports. Mike is an exceptional leader known to teach, mentor and coach other adults in his community on why it's important to be involved in this program. He gives because he believes in the cause, and asks for nothing in return. Mike bleeds orange and black and his passion for the Giants has helped make a lasting and legendary change in his community, with hundreds of children playing baseball who may have not had the opportunity otherwise. We are extremely grateful for his time, energy and enthusiasm over the past 22 years!
BURNS FAMILY FOUNDATION
The Burns Family Foundation forms the bedrock of the Harmon & Sue Burns Scholarship Program as the underwriting donor but also the heart behind this educational resource for Junior Giants participants. In 2009, after we sadly lost both Harmon and Sue Burns in less than three years, the Giants Community Fund renamed its scholarship in honor of these members of the Giants ownership group. That same year, the Burns Family Foundation stepped up to provide $25,000 annually, over and above their other donations to the Fund, to underwrite this program that provided ten $2,500 scholarships each year. In 2014, the foundation took the initiative to make an announcement that they wanted to do more for these kids and doubled each scholarship to $5,000, bringing the annual commitment to the $50,000 level. What a gift to these families throughout the state!
In total, the Burns Family Foundation has contributed $300,000 to various Fund programs and events since 2009 - and in addition to that, the family members have all donated personally to our efforts since 1993. Those in the foundation have given their time as foundation representatives in our home plate ceremonies for Scholars, as members of the Fund's Board and committees, as Co-Chairs of events and as supremely approachable friends for any endeavor in which the Fund needs advice. We are eternally grateful!
Jim Hale was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his unwavering commitment to the Willits Junior Giants program. Sadly, he passed in the winter of 2014 after battling with cancer for 6 years, but never once did he quit on the kids or the program during this difficult battle. He picked a man to start grooming as his replacement, and taught him as many of his little tricks and techniques as he could. Jim said that other than his family, which always came first, this program and the kids that need it so much was his top priority. Jim was always thinking of others.
Jim was very patient will all the kids he worked with. When one young player was having trouble batting, Jim would bring the "T" stand out, to build his confidence and keep him interested in the game, telling him about how the great Barry Bonds would be in the tunnel during games, practicing his swings on a "T". This young player started hitting off the pitching machine this last summer, and hit the ball 30 ft. up, and 60 ft. out to right field and said "That was for Jim, do you think he saw it?" Jim is very missed, as he helped run the program for 20 years, but his spirit lives on in the community he loved so much.
During her five-year tenure as commissioner, Heather ran a model Junior Giants program in Modesto. The combination of her hard work and attention to detail make the Modesto Junior Giants one of the most successful Junior Giants leagues. Heather created such a strong reputation for Junior Giants in Modesto that the league has grown from 315 players to 750 players since she became Commissioner. Heather not only has a strong ability to lead and organize, but her passion for Junior Giants is unparalleled as she places a high value on the initiatives in Character Development, Education, Health and Bullying Prevention. While Heather served her last year as Junior Giants Commissioner in 2013, she plans to stay actively involved as a coach and Giants Community Fund volunteer for years to come. We are proud to have Heather as part of our team!
Since 1994, Ray has taken a leadership role in the East Palo Alto Junior Giants program by maintaining and managing the program. Ray has spent countless hours on and off the field making sure the children in his community have a safe environment to play baseball. Ray is well respected in the community and is the epitome what it means to be a grassroots leader. We are proud to honor Ray for his commitment to the children.
WALT & BARBARA VELASQUEZ
Walt & Barbara have been involved with the San Jose PAL league since the program started in 1994, giving both children and adults with special needs in their community the ability to participate in Junior Giants. The success of the Junior Giants program in San Jose is due to the commitment, love and leadership of this dynamic duo. For 20 weekends during the year, and not counting many other weekends preparing for the season, Walt and Barbara are out early in the morning preparing the field and setting up equipment for their eager players. We are so grateful for their commitment to the community for over 20 years.
Eric has been a teacher and administrator at Santa Fe School for the past 25 years. Serving as the Junior Giants Commissioner since the program started at Santa Fe School 13 seasons ago, Eric is an integral component in making sure the Junior Giants Program runs year after year; going beyond the typical model of Junior Giants. After 54 years, Santa Fe School will be closing due to low enrollment. We are proud honor Eric for his love, commitment and long time service to the Junior Giants Program at Santa Fe School.
For more than seven years, Ken has brought his unparalleled enthusiasm and dedication to the Junior Giants program of Sacramento, at two different location sites; this is not just a job for Ken, it is his passion. Not only does Ken embody each aspect of the Junior Giants program, but he is always looking for new ideas to share with the Community Fund staff as well. Ken takes it upon himself to make sure each Junior Giants family has a great experience and spends countless hours to do just that.
Willie McCovey is involved year-round to assist our Junior Giants kids. Each year, Willie McCovey donates his time to attend the annual Junior Giants Willie Mac Luncheon, and generously autographs a personalized bat as an inspiring keepsake for each Willie Mac awardee. Mr. McCovey also dedicates his name and time to the Junior Giants Stretch Drive and the Willie McCovey Golf Classic, which together raised $250,000 in 2010 alone.
Since the inception of the Giants Community Fund, Willie Mays has been involved in supporting our efforts to help underserved children and their families. Mr. Mays provides support from the Say Hey Foundation, signs items for Community Fund auctions, and has given his time to attend the Play Ball Lunch and the Giants Community Fund Golf Classic. In addition, we are proud to say that the Willie Mays Boys and Girls Club is a hub for Junior Giants participants in the Bayview/Hunters Point area.
For nearly a decade, Jeff Hammar has been an instrumental part of the Atwater Junior Giants. Jeff not only teaches the Junior Giants Four Bases of Character Development to his players, but he implements them in every aspect of his own life. As co-commissioner and a coach for 2 teams, Jeff strongly believes in Junior Giants and helps with all portions of the program, such as: sign-ups, the "First Pitch" Orientation Meeting, scheduling teams and assisting coaches. Jeff serves as a role model for the Atwater players, parents and coaches and can be counted on to help the Giants Community Fund whenever needed.
Since 1994, Kathy has been involved with the Junior Giants and has run successful programs in both Red Bluff and Los Molinos. She has consistently gone above her call of duty, doing everything from prepping the fields for play, to providing medals for the kids at the end of the season, to pressing the Character Development lessons.
For the past 16 years Brandon has epitomized what Junior Giants is all about -- he embraces the Four Bases of Character Development and instills them in his coaches and players. He is an invaluable asset to both his community and the Junior Giants Program.
Larry, founder of the Good Tidings Foundation, is truly one of the Giants Community Fund's most resourceful community partners. For more than a decade, the Fund has worked with Larry to renovate Junior Giants fields throughout Northern and Central California. He and his family give an incredible amount of time to help the Fund build safe places for Junior Giants to play.
A founding Junior Giants Commissioner since 1994, Gene managed the program in East Palo Alto and now is the Commissioner of the Las Vegas league. Gene's homegrown spirit has linked him to the hearts of kids and families in both regions and he serves as a wonderful advocate for young people.
BOB & LORRY GREENBERG
Commissioners of the San Bruno Junior Giants since 1995, Bob and Lorry were instrumental in strengthening the program and promoting its message. In the wake of Bob's passing in late 2006, Lorry continued in their mutual devotion to the development of young people through baseball. They serve as a tremendous example of the Junior Giants mission.
Rick was a Giants Community Fund board member for 10 years, many of which were spent as Chairman. He continues to give an incredible amount of time as Chairman Emeritus, and the Fund is grateful for the many resources he and his family provide personally, as well as through their Compadres Restaurants.
PETER MAGOWAN & THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Since 1993, the Giants ownership group has set the pace for the front office, and the team itself, through a strong emphasis placed on community outreach. This prioritization has allowed for great creativity in the formative years of the award-winning Junior Giants program.
Ron, together with the California Police Activities League, helped to lay the groundwork for the launch of the original Junior Giants leagues back in 1994. He continues to be a very active part of our Junior Giants and Violence Prevention committees.
Michael is a nationally known youth advocate and comedian. Among his many commitments, he serves on the Fund's Advisory Board. A willing and compelling speaker at our Junior Giants events, he inspires kids and coaches alike to continue in their dedication to creating stronger and safer communities.