Joe Davidson

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Hometown Report: Manuel still all about baseball

Published: Friday, Mar. 23, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 25, 2012 - 2:34 pm

Jerry Manuel still lives baseball. He watches it, studies it and breaks it down for the MLB Network.

Though his managing days with the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets are behind him, Manuel remains a teacher of the game. As such, he's hosting a free baseball clinic designed for African American players in the sixth through eighth grades Saturday at 10 a.m. at Capital Christian High School.

The former standout player at Cordova is also exploring the idea of creating a charter school through his Jerry Manuel Foundation to mirror the foundation's motto of "Cultivating Greatness."

Most of all, Manuel wants to see young African Americans playing baseball again.

"We need to raise awareness of the lack of African Americans in this sport," Manuel said. "We've lost those kids in baseball – definitely lost them."

Manuel is an example of what a groomed infield, a batting cage and a uniform can do for a young man. He continues to work with youth teams, to speak at events – anything to spread the word about the beauty of baseball.

Manuel said he is dismayed that Little League teams are often "drained" by the allure of other travel teams, and how some African Americans are being left behind because of the cost to play the game. Even in middle schools, Manuel said, too many kids specialize in one sport and miss a broader experience.

Manuel said he was impressed that Grant's Shaq Thompson, a national football recruit headed to Washington, returned to play outfield for the Pacers this spring. Leon Lee, Manuel's longtime friend who starred at Grant in the 1960s and was a home run legend in Japan, was equally impressed. Lee will assist Manuel at Saturday's clinic.

"Shaq doesn't realize the impact he's making for young kids, that they'll look up to him and want to play baseball, too," Manuel said. "I love it. That's what we need."

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Around the diamonds

• Grant is off to a 4-1 start under coach Danny Chavez, a star pitcher for the Pacers' last title team in 1989.

Fernando Viña, a star infielder for Valley in 1987 who later played in the majors and now does commentary work for the A's, spoke glowingly of Elk Grove junior infielder Dom Nunez and freshman Nick Madrigal when he saw them play Wednesday. "They're great," Viña said.

F.P. Santangelo is at Oak Ridge, nearly three decades after his dad of the same name excelled for the Trojans. The elder Santangelo is a color commentator for the Washington Nationals.

• Pioneer pitcher Thomas Galart, a key for a team aiming for a Division III championship, is the son of Kevin Galart, an ace for Woodland in the 1980s.

• Pioneer pitcher Zack Aukes will undergo Tommy John surgery next month, but it doesn't mean the end of his baseball career. Oak Ridge pitcher Zach Mahon had the surgery in June and is back as a position player, though not yet pitching.

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