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Jammin James will make pitch to youth
Former Chicago Cubs pitcher James Matas will be hosting the Jammin James Pitching Clinic on April 20 at the Valverde Park in Lathrop. - photo by Bulletin file photo

• WHAT: Jammin’ James Pitching Clinic
• WHEN: April 20 at 2 p.m.
• WHERE: Lathrop Community Center at Valverde Park
• COST: Free for kids, boys and girls, under the age of 12

LATHROP – As the saying goes, the best things in life are free.

Manteca native James Matas knows that, and now the former Chicago Cubs minor leaguer will be giving back to the community by hosting his annual free pitching clinic on April 20. The event is sponsored Lathrop Rotary Club.

“I just do it to give back to the community,” said Matas, who was drafted by the Cubs in 1986. “Some kids can’t afford (the clinic), and I just love giving back.”

The clinic will be held at the Lathrop Community Center (15557 5th Street) at Valverde Park at 2 p.m. It is offered to boys and girls, 12 and under.

“I’ve been doing a pitching clinic for the last 20 years in either Manteca or Lathrop or anywhere,” said the former minor league pitcher, whose catcher used to be current New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi back in the late 80s.

After being slected in the 13th round of the 1986 draft out of Modesto Junior College, Matas played in the minor league system through 1988. During his stint in the minors, “Jammin’ ” James played for three different teams: Geneva Cubs, Winston-Salem Spirits and Peoria Chiefs.

During his initial season in the minors, Matas started three games and went 2-0. In ’87 when he was with Winston-Salem, he started 18 games and went 8-6 with a 4.15 ERA in 119 innings pitched.

In his final season with Cubs’ organization, Matas played for two different ball clubs (Winston-Salem and Peoria). He started nine more games between the two squads and won five.

He played his final season for the Boise Hawks, an independent league.

Matas won’t be teaching detailed pitching mechanics of a former professional to these youth. The lesson will be fun and more basic while teaching the children the simpler fundamentals of throwing a baseball over the plate.

 Matas will also be putting an emphasis on the importance of saying no to drugs, going to school and earning an education. He says that those were the major factors that contributed to his career ending prematurely.

“I’ll be telling them to say no to alcohol and drugs and get educations,” he added. “That’s one of the first things is to say no and stay in school.”

Each participant will also be provided a free lunch as well.

“The rotary club will be doing the barbecue during the clinic,” Matas concluded. “The kids could go grab a hamburger while the wait or after the clinic is over.”

To contact John-Joel Griffiths, e-mail