The sign-ups are over, the draft is done and the first practice is behind us. Baseball season is here. It is the time of the year when hundreds of kids prepare to play the national pastime. Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, the game itself is a reminder of simpler times and brings back many childhood memories. My favorite team is the Los Angeles Dodgers and as a kid I would spend just about every night listening to Vin Scully on the radio or while watching the games on channel 11. My most vivid memories were agonizing over the Dodgers losing to the New York Yankees in the 1977 and ’78 World Series. My cousin was a Yankee fan and having to face him each day during the series in back-to-back seasons was tough. After all, bragging rights when you’re twelve was a big deal. It wasn’t until 1981 when the Dodgers would face the Yankees again and finally win the World Series in six games. It’s been a long stretch since 1988, since the last time the Dodgers won the World Series, but then again there is always this year.
This month brought back many childhood memories when I attended the dedication and tribute of Bobby Dillon. I had just finished our first practice with my Eastview Little League AAA Dodgers and headed over for the tribute with my 10-year-old son Luca proudly wearing his Dodger uniform. I had never met the Dillon family, but was aware that Dillon Field existed in San Pedro. About 100 family and friends attended the tribute, which took place at the corner of 22nd Street Park facing Miner Street, the site of the old field, which today is the parking lot of the old warehouses being used by Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles.
This beautiful Saturday afternoon was about the memory and tribute to the man that founded the Cabrillo Bay League. In 1962, Bobby passed away suddenly from a heart attack when he was 42. His son Bobby Jr. was 10. I couldn’t help but think about the similarities in age that Luca and I had with Bobby and Bobby Jr., which put the this special day into perspective.
As any great baseball day, the weather was perfect and the stories of hard fought games between the Sharks and the Squids, as well as coaches getting a bit animated after a tough game, were told leaving the crowd both laughing and in tears. Pete Moore, who is 93 years young and helped coach the Squids with Bobby, was present as well.
The most touching was hearing from Bobby Dillon Jr. and his sister Sylvia Valdez who gave a touching speech about her father and the way it use to be. One thing she said that hit home was that a play date back in the ’60s was kids going out to play all day with fellow neighborhood kids and how Sundays were meant for visiting family and friends. As the ceremony wound down I was able to meet and talk with Bobby Jr. He left an impression on me that I believe was a reflection of his father, kind and true. The port did a great thing honoring a guy whose goal was to teach kids how to field a ground ball, catch a fly ball, and get a hit all for the love of the game and his community.
Many realities of San Pedro were reflected in the hour tribute, which I have always known, but was solidified once again on this day. Our town is tied together by sports. We have always been a town of pride with a competitive edge. This is most prevalent when our local teams travel because San Pedro always has the most fans on its side of the field. Our sense of pride is unparalleled when it comes to local sports. The very nature of the word itself embodies all that we are: SP for San Pedro and PORTS, which is our community’s lifeblood. Put the two together and the word sports embodies the live, work and play hard attitude that is San Pedro. spt