Junior Giants launch in Carson City

6-year-old Anthony Pacheco gets a hit for his Junior Giant 'Yellow Lightning' team Friday at the Livermore Sports Complex.

6-year-old Anthony Pacheco gets a hit for his Junior Giant 'Yellow Lightning' team Friday at the Livermore Sports Complex.

While it’s a non-competitive league, the fundamentals of baseball are stressed in the Junior Giants program.

Coaches exhort the young boys and girls in the field to get in ready position, touching their gloves to the ground and the young players enthusiastically comply.

And the fundamentals can be as fundamental as they get. After one infielder fielded a ball he threw to third base. When the coach asked him where first base was, the player pointed to first base. After he showed the player where first base was the coach said, “you’re learning.”

Another young girl who was having fun came over to the dugout to hug her mother. “And you were scared to come,” the mother told her child.

It’s all part of the free Junior Giants program sponsored by the San Francisco Giants which stresses character development. This is Carson City’s first year in the program, which held its opening day of games Friday at the Pete Livermore Sports Complex during its second week.

The program is off to a strong start with 165 boys and girls and 47 volunteers. With Little League winding down and entering its all-star stage of the season, Junior Giants also provides another alternative for youth to play baseball. The program will last for eight weeks.

Lanae Mitchell, who’s 8-year-old son, Zealand, played Little League last year, decided to sign her son up for Junior Giants this year after receiving a flier at school. “He enjoyed the Little League season so much,” Mitchell said. “It was fun.”

She said Zealand was also having fun in Junior Giants.

“It’s really fun,” she said. “I never played a sport. He’s learning things from the other kids.”

He’s also learning character development from the program. Each week stresses a different theme and this past week has been health, which stresses healthy eating and exercise. “He’s excited to eat healthy foods,” said Mitchell about her son. She said her son asks her, “mom did I eat well today?”

And while education won’t be stressed until week four, the program is already having an impact on Zealand in that area, Mitchell said.

“He never wanted to do homework during the summer,” Mitchell said. “He was just basically zoning out.” But that has changed, Mitchell said.

Families in the program take a survey to see what kind of an effect Junior Giants has as are the children drinking more water and reading more. Families who complete the surveys receive tickets to a Giants game at AT&T Park.

Players who attend each week receive a bobblehead doll of San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, who’s this year’s Junior Giants player ambassador.

The Giants provide plenty of swag for the kids.

“They provide all kinds of Giants gear to give to the kids, which is awesome,” said Jade Hickman, the Junior Giants ambassador for Carson City.

The four tenants of the Junior Giants program are teamwork, leadership, confidence and integrity. Confidence is stressed in week three, teamwork is stressed in week five, leadership is stressed in week six and integrity is stressed in week 8.

One of the most important aspects of the program is anti-bullying. That part of the program is led by Giants relief pitcher Sergio Romo and players can take strike out bullying pledge.

The program has a 5-to-6-year-old T-ball division and divisions for ages 7-9 and 10-13.

For Kim Milstad, who moved from the Bay Area in October, the program was a chance to become more a part of the community. Her 7-year-old son Robert participates in the program.

Milstad said for her son, she thought about the program, “that it would be a good way to make friends outside of school.”

Even though Milstad is a Giants fan, she said about the program, “I never heard of this before.”

But the noncompetitive program was the right fit for her son, she said. “My son is not competitive at all. He’s very, very shy. This helps him come out of his shell a little bit.”


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