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San Francisco Giants effort involves 150 Manteca kids
junior giants
Junior Giants coach Scott Davis and his player Matteo Orlando, winner of the program’s Willie Mac Award, were recent guests at Oracle Park.

Scott Davis has been a fan of the San Francisco Giants since 1986.

He wears his orange and black gear proudly and, more importantly, was thrilled this year to be affiliated with his favorite Major League Baseball franchise.

The City of Manteca partnered with the Giants Community Fund – a non-profit program that promotes health, education and character development to propel youth in underserved areas to be positive forces in their communities – on an eight-week schedule consisting of youth baseball and softball teams as part of the City’s Recreation and Community Services.

Recreation Supervisor Eric Culpepper was the force behind bringing the Junior Giants to Manteca, having established a connection after working with two other cities.

“Our goal was to get as many kids involved,” he said on Wednesday.

The signups for the inaugural season exceeded his initial numbers of 150 participants.

The Junior Giants were involved in the Little League program in Northgate. The local underserved youngsters not only sported the team colors and logo but played for free in Major, Minor and T-Ball divisions, according to Culpepper.

He’s hoping to do likewise later this year with the City of Manteca partnering with NFL and NBA in flag football and basketball, respectively.

The non-competitive Challenger division, meanwhile, was near and dear to those such as Culpepper, Davis and John Barrera. The latter two are volunteer coaches for the special needs players.

No score is kept as players learn more than just baseball.

Along with leadership, integrity and teamwork – pillars of the Junior Giants program – the players in the Challenger division, ranging in age from 5 to 20, receive important lessons in education, health and violence prevention.

Davis, who is involved locally with Give Every Child A Chance and works with special needs of the San Joaquin County Office of Education, just wrapped coaching this past week with his team, The Say Hey Kids.

 “I chose the name because not only is Willie Mays’ the Say Hey Kid but the song (Say Hey! Willie Mays), at one point – ‘That Giants kid is great,’” he noted.

Davis added: “I truly believe and want everyone to know that each and every Challengers player I work with is great.”

Like the parent club, the Junior Giants also recognizes a distinguished player with the Willie Mac Award.

Davis’ summer school student in the SJCOE program, Matteo Orlando, was the recipient of the award for the Say Hey Kids. The two were honored to attend the Home of the Giants’ Oracle Park in San Francisco not too long ago for the special event.

Those involved with Junior Giants program throughout Northern California are scheduled for another special event at Oracle Park this weekend.  

Barrera, who coaches the Bad News Bears, is an Oakland A’s fan. He was able to put his team allegiances aside for the program. “We do it for the kids,” said Barrera, who is a longtime Little League coach.

The Bad News Bears and the Say Hey Kids played six games this summer at Lincoln Park, with each player receiving free glove, hat, and bat, to name a few.

Funding for the Junior Giant program is made possible by contributions from individuals, businesses and foundations via a number of special partnerships and fundraisers – included is the 50/50 raffle during home games at Oracle Park.

Since its inception in 1991, the Giants Community Fund as donated over $34.5 million to community efforts.