The memory of San Francisco Giants’ Hall of Famer Willie McCovey lives on.
Players in the various Junior Giants baseball programs from throughout Northern California were awarded the prestigious Willie Mac Award for exemplifying “Confidence, Integrity, Leadership, and Teamwork, both on and off the field,” according to mlb.com.
McCovey, the legendary slugger, was that and much more.
Matteo Orlando of the Manteca Junior Giants’ Challenger Division was this year’s recipient.
“He won the Willie Mac Award for the Junior Giants and got to be the ‘Play Ball Kid,’” said Scott Davis, who is the coach of Orlando’s ‘Say Hey Kids’ team.
Orlando, who was also a student in Davis’ summer school class at the San Joaquin County Office of Education, was not only recognized but got to kick off the game at Oracle Park, home of the SF Giants, by going on the field and saying, “play ball.”
The Giants rallied that day, scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the Pittsburg Pirates, 8-7 – Thairo Estrada ended it with walk-off homer.
The Junior Giants, locally, just completed their inaugural season.
The eight-week schedule consisting of youth baseball and softball teams was a partnership between the City of Manteca’s Recreation & Community Services and the Giants Community Fund – this is a non-profit program that promotes health, education and character development to propel youth in underserved areas to be positive forces in their communities.
The two teams in the Challenger Division were Davis’ Say Hey Kids and the Bad News Bears coached by John Barrera.
All six of their games were played at Lincoln Park.