CONCORD, CA (Apr. 16, 2022) — Ana Villalobos is already a Hall of Famer, but she could not hide her fresh excitement when discussing the fact that the Junior Giants baseball program will be back in Concord this year after missing two summers during the pandemic.
“I am super excited after two years that we will have a season this summer,” Villalobos said in a Zoom call interview last week. Despite all the missed time when COVID-19 shut down the 2020 and 2021 Concord Junior Giants and with new challenges this year lining up fields, the free program run through the Giants Community Fund is accepting signups for the long-delayed season starting June 13.
Junior Giants in a noncompetitive, coed baseball and softball program for underserved communities. Villalobos says that due to field limitations, the free Concord program for youth 6-13 years expects to have about 150 players this summer, including a number of special needs children. In previous years they have had over 300 players in the program.
They will be using Concord American Little League fields on Olivera Rd. Damage by vandals to its long-time fields behind the Mt. Diablo High School football stadium caused Concord American to cancel use of that complex this year, reducing not only its own 2022 program but the Junior Giants as well. The little league has also had water issues for the Olivera Fields.
In 2019, Giants luminaries Bruce Bochy, Dusty Baker and Buster Posey—all likely future Baseball Hall of Fame members—were on hand with 800 others when Villalobos was inducted to the Junior Giants Hall of Fame at the annual Play Ball Lunch.
Villalobos is the small dynamo who continues to serve as Concord League Commissioner. She and former Monument Impact head Mike Van Hofwegen were instrumental in getting the local program underway in 2013.
She is so pleased to announce that registration has opened this month for players. The league is also seeking volunteers to coach the teams. “No experience is necessary. Teams have one weekday practice and a game on Saturday,” she explained.
“We will have a safe program for parents and children. We want everyone to be more comfortable in taking care of their children with physical activity and for their mind too [by participating in Junior Giants].”
The commissioner said this year’s program got a nice donation from the Mayor’s Cup golf tournament. Funding from the Giants Community Fund, sponsors and donations allows the Junior Giants to provide each player with a jersey, hat, pants and other baseball equipment. Everything but shoes, Villalobos points out.
Concord is one of five Contra Costa Junior Giants programs along with Pittsburg, Antioch, Richmond and the newest this year in Brentwood.
Concord Junior Giants Volunteer Information (Download PDF)
As significant as the opportunity for the youth in Junior Giants to develop their baseball skills, it’s equally important that they are exposed to the “Four Bases of Character Development”— confidence, integrity, leadership and teamwork — as well as the importance of health, education and bullying prevention to the 20,000 youth in the program which spans California and Nevada.
Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.