Homegrown

Players Row (l to r): Yuhi Tamada, Dylan Kordic, Koufax Platas, Max Fernandez, Jimmy Ray Vuoso, Ralph Velasquez, Dominic Porter, Mike Brucelas, Josh Duarte, Cain Lusic, Jake Harper, Ian Renn, Chase Lukin Coaches Row (l to r): Chris Lusic, Dexter Porter, AJ Brucelas, Chad Lusic, Tim Harper

Travel ball teams, by default, involve participating in lots of tournaments sponsored by various organizations, and often require traveling some distance to do so. Most travel ball teams also boast a membership representing different cities surrounding the team’s main city of registry. In fact, some travel ball teams have members who often drive three or four hours just for practices, because their players earned a spot, and have made a commitment to be on a particular team. However, one of the very unique characteristics about the San Pedro Jr. Pirates Baseball Club is that each and every single player was born and is being raised right here in San Pedro.

“Whenever we are at tourneys, people always ask us what the ‘Homegrown’ written on our shirts means,” says Cari Burich, one of the moms with a child on the team. “They are always very impressed when we tell them that all of our boys are from the same city, which also happens to be where all of the parents are from. That’s very unusual for travel clubs.”

Unusual indeed. Even more distinctive is the fact that many of the team parents also grew up together, some even went to school and played sports together, and to this day, many of them even work together. So it is no surprise that the membership is (unofficially, but seriously) limited to twelve boys who, like their parents, call San Pedro home. For these parents, the black and gold culture that is fundamental to San Pedro has been embedded in them for years, and that very same black and gold culture is being instilled in their children today. These boys are currently ten- and eleven-years-old, fourth and fifth graders who attend local schools, and absolutely love playing baseball and hanging out together.

“Sometimes after an all day Saturday practice, we don’t even go home,” says Dylan Kordich, 10, who plays catcher and pitcher, and is a fourth grader at Holy Trinity School. “We are very close and we hang out all the time. They’re my best friends and we spend a lot of time together.”

With your help, these homegrown boys will be spending even more time together this summer in their quest to put San Pedro and those nostalgic black and gold colors on the baseball map at the national level.

This July, for the very first time, a San Pedro team will compete in the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Elite World Series in Orlando, Fla. USSSA is the highest governing body in charge of youth baseball and the Elite 32 (as the national tourney is known) is considered the proverbial promised land of baseball. The team has already qualified for one of only 32 highly coveted spots in this intensely competitive tournament. Now all they have to do is get there.

“Our team qualified for Nationals in November,” says head coach Chris Lusic. “We won a huge Thanksgiving tourney against ten of the best teams in Southern California, and since then, we’ve been working very hard to raise funds to get there. We have a long way to go and we’re asking for everyone’s help.”

The boys have enjoyed an incredible season with more than 15 solid wins in less than 18 months, traveling as far south as San Diego and playing as many as 10 games in one weekend. All the while, the parents have hosted and sponsored dozens of fundraisers like poker tournaments and taco nights to help offset the many costs related to travel ball. Both feats are huge accomplishments for a travel club at this age level.

“We have a great group of kids,” says Lusic. “They are very coachable and they work hard, they listen, and they come from really good families. The parents are just as terrific and they work just as hard as the boys do making sure we raise enough money to get the boys to Orlando. This is a very special team and we are honored at the opportunity to represent this city we all love so much, and are so proud of, at Nationals in July.”

Lusic, whose nephew plays on the team, is a San Pedro High School graduate who played baseball there and at L.A. Mission College as well as Cal State Dominguez Hills. This is his fourth season coaching the team, which he helped establish, and even though they have won many tourneys, they’ve never made it this far.

“I hope we can set them all up and prepare them to play at the next level. They’re good Pedro boys and we all want them to grow up to be good Pedro men.” Lusic and his four assistant coaches hold practices twice a week at Bloch Field and enter the team in at least two tourneys a month. Their goal is to give the boys as much game experience as possible so they can be ready for Nationals.

“I am excited about going to Florida because that is one step closer to my dream, to all of our dreams, of playing baseball in the professional league,” says 10-year-old Dominic Porter, a fourth grader at South Shores Elementary School and the team’s center fielder. “It’s cool that we get to show our talent in a really big tournament across the country because people will see what Pedro is all about. We work hard and we play hard and we have fun doing it.” spt

San Pedro Jr. Pirates upcoming fundraisers include a pancake breakfast on Sunday, June 2, and a Poker Night on Saturday, June 15. Corporate sponsorships and individual donations are greatly appreciated.

For more information about these and other events, or to make a contribution to this homegrown cause, visit the San Pedro Jr. Pirates Baseball Club Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SanPedroJrPiratesBaseballClub), or their website at www.leaguelineup.com/sanpedrojrpirates.

A Third Chance at Life

Alicia Cline

It was a sunny afternoon in June 2005, and like many San Pedrans, Alicia Cline lined up excitedly to accept her high school diploma at Pirate Stadium, her family watching proudly from the stands. But unlike most graduates, as she made her way on crutches across the stage, rows of her classmates slowly rose to their feet and applauded her.

Only a year earlier, when most of her peers were worried about what they’d do over summer break, Cline faced a decision that could mean the difference between life or death: she had been diagnosed with stage four bone cancer after breaking her femur, and had to decide whether to have her leg amputated, or undergo a procedure that would save it, but at the cost of wearing a brace for the rest of her life.

Caught between the opinions of two doctors and her torn mother, the strong-willed 16-year-old opted for the choice with the best odds of survival. A few weeks after her seventeenth birthday, her right leg was amputated above her knee, and her life forever changed.

“Becoming sick makes you grow up really fast, and I think cancer really changed the person who I was. I was hell-bent on staying strong for my family,” says Cline, now 25 and finishing her bachelor’s degree in sociology at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

She still has the strong, witty, infectious and bluntly honest personality that helped her face cancer as a teen. It would help her again when her cancer returned twice in college: once in her lung, and again in an ovary. Today, Cline is officially in remission.

“When I found out, I just cried; it was such a huge relief. Thinking I might have cancer again every time I had an ache or pain for the past eight years was not fun.”

But despite all she’s endured, Cline will be the first to tell you that it could’ve been worse. While in treatment at Kaiser Permanente in Hollywood, she became friends with another teen in the pediatric ward named Joanna Cervantes. Sharing photos, they realized that they both went to San Pedro High and they both hung out in senior court.

Cervantes would also lose a limb in her fight against cancer.

“I chose to have my leg amputated, but she didn’t have a choice,” says Cline. “One night, it got really bad, and they had to take her arm. Later on, we both had recurrences, and unfortunately, she passed away.”

After months of chemotherapy, Cline returned to school for her senior year on crutches and a prosthetic wearing a wig and jeans. She got involved with a new club organizing SPHS’s first-ever Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The experience boosted her confidence and she decided she wasn’t going to hide beneath her wig and jeans anymore, boldly coming to school one day in a dress and no wig.

“People who knew my situation were supportive, but it wasn’t easy being open. High school kids can be mean.”

That May, Cline and her father, who had overcome Hodgkin’s lymphoma himself, were among the first group to complete the survivor’s lap at Relay. It’s an event she and her family still participate in today. Later that summer, they went on a family vacation to Disneyworld through the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

“It was hard to see her go through something like this and not be able to just fix it,” recalls her mother, Cathleen Cline Dovolis. “If it weren’t for our family’s support and especially our sense of humor, I don’t know how we would have survived the whole thing together. Laughter was a huge part of keeping us all sane during that time. Alicia is one special young lady. She is my true inspiration and the epitome of the word ‘survivor’ for sure.”

Cline also participates in Relay for Life at CSUDH, where she’s a member of several clubs and the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority. She’s taken an interest in disability studies, and is considering graduate school.

“Regardless of what I do with my degree, I want to help people. It would be cool if I could get involved with the American Cancer Society or some type of nonprofit that helps amputees or cancer patients,” she says.

Entering adult life as an amputee and three-time cancer survivor is an experience Cline doesn’t sugar coat. In the real world of student debt, a competitive job market and steep medical costs, she sometimes catches herself second guessing her decision, but ultimately knows she might not be here if she hadn’t bravely made it.

“My patience might be tested, I might get sad, but I know I can handle it and at the end of the day, I’m not dead,” Cline says. “My mantra and something I tell my boyfriend all the time is that it might not be easy, but it’s going to be worth it.” spt

Relay for Life will be held May 18 at San Pedro High School. For more info, visit www.relayforlife.org.

San Pedro’s Living Treasures

On March 1, the San Pedro Historic Downtown Waterfront District will host the Living Treasures Dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown San Pedro, kicking off the year-long celebration of our port town’s 125th anniversary. While there are plenty of living treasures in San Pedro who could be on this list, the following select few are being honored for their contributions to our community.

(photos by Joleen D'Rage)

Jean Wilder

Jean Acalin Wilder has lived her entire life in San Pedro. She was born in 1928 to Italian and Dalmatian parents. She lives in a beautiful 100-year old Craftsman house built in 1913 that has a spectacular view of the Cabrillo Beach breakwater. The home sits on two lots in the Point Fermin area that was given to her husband’s family by George H. Peck, one of San Pedro’s notable real estate developers. Jean and her husband, Charles Wilder Jr., had six children together – five boys and one girl, all of which were born at the old, brick, San Pedro Hospital.


Joe Marino

Joe Marino moved to San Pedro with his family from Rockford, Ill., at the age of 13. Marino, a Sicilian, has lived in town now for more than 72 years, and says he’s “in love with the town of San Pedro and the community at large, as the community has come together to make this a great place to work and live.” Marino spent 48 years as an educator and worked as a local elementary school teacher for 10 years –at Leland, White Point, and Crestwood – and as a school administrator for 25 years. After retiring from the LAUSD, Marino mentored college students studying to be schoolteachers at Cal State Dominguez Hills in 1992, and did so for 13 years. Marino was honored as LAUSD’s Principal of the Year in 1987 and was Honorary Mayor of San Pedro from 1988-1989. Joe is married to his lovely wife, Marian. Together they have two children and three grandchildren.

Harry Hall

Harry Hall will celebrate his 100th birthday this June, which makes Harry and the Angel’s Gate Lighthouse the exact same age. Born and raised in San Pedro, Hall’s parents came from Swedish immigrant families that settled in Minnesota. Hall made it to San Pedro when his family moved there in 1905. At age 9, Harry fell in love with the violin after a salesman knocked on the family door selling violin lessons. This love would lead Hall to become a professional violinist and teacher, teaching lessons at Vine’s Music, Compton College and a private studio in Palos Verdes Estates, just to name a few. He even conducted a 2,000-violin orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl in 1948. Hall married two times, and is twice widowed, but says he feels blessed to have had two wives who both shared his passion for music and his love of San Pedro. Amazingly, Hall is still playing the violin around town. You can find him at such as the Harbor Terrace Retirement Community, First United Methodist Church and a downtown favorite, The Whale and Ale.


Anne Gusha

You can still find Anne Gusha behind the counter of Williams’ Book Store on 6th Street in downtown San Pedro. At 93-years-old (and still counting), the Seattle-born Gusha is best known as the current owner of the historic, and historically independent, bookstore. Soon after she was born, she moved to San Pedro from Washington with her Croatian family in 1920. Gusha first stepped foot in the bookstore when she was eight. In 1941, Gusha began working at the store for then-owner Ethel Williams. When Williams retired in 1980, Gusha and her son, Jerry, took over the store, calling it their own. Gusha has spent much of her time on philanthropic causes, such as Soroptomist International, Los Angeles Harbor, and has worked hard to promote literacy and women’s issues. Anne was married in 1945 and has three children.


Muriel Olguin

Muriel Olguin says that San Pedro “was the best place to raise kids and build careers while living in one of the most beautiful places.” Born in our port town in 1923, Olguin, 89, bounced around the Harbor Area before settling in San Pedro, where she’s lived for the past 65 years. Her life with her late husband, John Olguin, was the stuff of legend and romance novels, and was chronicled in San Pedro Today columnist Jack Baric‘s San Pedro documentary, Port Town, where the couple’s love of sleeping outside under the stars and rowing their 15-foot rowboat to the Isthmus at the West End of Catalina Island was featured. An artist and philanthropist, Olguin completed a Master of Arts degree in 1958, at a time when “mothers didn’t go to college with children and a husband at home,” she says. She was a founding member of the Angel’s Gate Cultural Center, the Rembrandt Crew that started the Palos Verdes Art Center, and with other artists, The Loft in downtown San Pedro. Both Muriel and John Olguin, for the majority of their lives, have immensely and unselfishly contributed to San Pedro and the surrounding communities. Together they had three children and a very active home life in San Pedro.


Matty Domancich

Kuzma Domancich, best known around town as “Matty,” is as true a San Pedran as they come. Born of Croatian parents and raised in San Pedro for the past 90 years, Matty remains one of San Pedro’s greatest, active, goodwill ambassadors. Domancich founded and became the first President of San Pedro High School’s Pirate Booster Club in 1958, an all-volunteer, fundraising organization originally established to provide moral and monetary support to some of the high school’s athletes and their needs. Today, it has expanded its support to include all SPHS sports, academic clubs, theater arts and many other campus-sponsored activities. It is also believed to be the LAUSD’s oldest booster club. Domancich also served as a past Honorary Mayor of San Pedro from 1989-1991 and is a past “Exalted Ruler” of the San Pedro Elks Lodge. If you’re old enough, you may remember Domancich’s two Shell Gas Stations – one on Gaffey St. and the other on Pacific Ave. After Shell told him to stop providing full-service to his customers, Domancich became angry, immediately closed-up shop, and went on to open the Bike Palace. Today, you can find Domancich selling historic photos of San Pedro with the proceeds going to the San Pedro Elks Lodge, who in turn funds scholarships for local students. Domancich was married to his late wife Mary and they had one daughter.


Goldeen Kaloper

Goldeen Kaloper turns 96 this month. Born in Zlarin, Croatia, Kaloper came to the United States with her family at the young age of 12, first settling in Seattle, Wash. In 1942, Kaloper met her second husband and they moved to San Pedro. Both were widows with small infants at the time, and built a long and happy marriage of 65 years. Together, they had five children. She was one of the “cannery girls” and worked there for 24 years. The Kaloper home was a center for hospitality, especially for fishermen whose families were still back in the “old country.” God and family are the two most important things in Kaloper’s life. She believes this is what makes San Pedro great – as long as people have a deep faith, and love for their families, problems can be solved. She says the secret to a long life is, “Eat healthy, wish good for everyone, and God bless my children who take care of me!”


Thelma Gatlin

Thelma Gatlin was born in Shreveport, La. on July 15, 1924. Born Thelma Johnson, she was one of 18 children. Gatlin moved to San Pedro in 1942 to work in the shipyards during World War II. She soon married John Gatlin in 1944 and had they had children. At 88 years of age, Thelma is still very active in the community and serves on several boards, including the Toberman executive board and First Neighborhood Council in San Pedro. In the past, Gatlin served on the first board for the Central Neighborhood Council, and was one of the first recipients of the YWCA’s “Racial Justice Award.” She has also served as the President of the San Pedro YWCA board, President of the Women Church United, Vice President of the Republican Club in San Pedro. Today, you can find Gatlin as an active member of Ocean View Baptist Church.


Helen DiMaggio

Helen DiMaggio is 94-years-old and the wife of the late Neno DiMaggio. Half Mexican and half Croatian, she is the daughter of Andrew & Mary Fistonich who founded Star Fisheries Inc. in 1921. After her father Andrew passed away, her husband Neno assumed leadership of the company. With her husband at the helm, DiMaggio worked behind the scenes for 39 years, along with her sister, Anita Mardesich, who continued in the family business with subsidiary, American Fisheries. DiMaggio has been active in many community groups including San Pedro Peninsula Cancer Guild, Little Sisters of the Poor Auxiliary, the Assistance League of San Pedro, Mary Star of the Sea Church and Holy Trinity Church. She is past president of the prestigious Rotary Ann’s and was an active member of the former Women’s Chamber of Commerce.


Nicoletta “Nikky” Troy

Born in San Pedro on January 12, 1924, 89-year old Nicoletta Troy grew up with four siblings, speaking both Greek and English. Nikki was born at one of the Papadakis family homes, by the help of a midwife, and is cousin to San Pedro community leader, John Papadakis, former owner of Papadakis Taverna. She began working at the age of 12 at her father’s restaurant on Beacon Street, known as the City Hall Café. At just 4′ 10″ tall, she fondly remembers standing on a box in the kitchen to cook hamburgers and hot dogs for their customers. She worked side-by-side with her father until she graduated high school and continued working as a waitress throughout her adult years, at restaurants such as The Fireside, a carhop located on the corner of 6th St. and Gaffey, Cigo’s Restaurant on 9th St. and Pacific, and the legendary Ante’s, from which she retired at age 75.

 

Florence Collins
(no picture available at press time)

Ninety-eight-years-old and still going strong, Florence Collins was born in San Pedro to Italian/Ischian parents on May 28, 1914. She attended Fifth Street School, San Pedro’s original elementary school, which was located where the San Pedro Courthouse sits today. Florence was also in the first graduating class of Dana Middle School. A young wife and mother during the Great Depression, she and her husband, Bill Collins, lived on 9th St., which at the time was referred to as “Dago Flats.” Her husband was a sailor stationed with the Pacific Fleet in San Pedro, which was eventually moved to Pearl Harbor before WWII. His ship, the USS West Virginia, was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. For two weeks, Collins did not know whether or not her husband had survived. It turns out Bill was knocked unconscious below deck, but was carried up top by a fellow crew member and thrown overboard, which saved his life. Collins has been a lifelong member of Mary Star of the Sea Church, and has several dozen grandchildren, great grand-children and great, great grandchildren, almost all of whom still reside in San Pedro.

Little Mermaid Lands At South Shores

Dual Prince Erics and Ariels: (l to right) Andres Srsen, Lourdes Zapata, Cristina Roche, Sean Rosenfeld (photo by Joshua Stecker)

The bell rings at South Shores Elementary and dozens of drama students get into position in the school auditorium. With only a few days of rehearsal time left before winter break, it may as well be showtime. Musical Director Dr. Paul Goldenstrikes a chord on the piano and students stage left and right sway as they carry long stretches of blue fabric to set the underwater scene for this year’s musical: The Little Mermaid.

In a little over a month, the 200 fourth- and fifth-graders will perform sold-out shows at California State University Dominguez Hills, a tradition of the performing arts magnet elementary school for more than 30 years.

“We make it work every year, everyone’s very passionate about this,” says co-director Carolina Brown, who has led the school’s highly regarded and acclaimed theatrical productions for the past 21 years. “This is the hardest play I’ve blocked or directed. Every play has its challenges and the kids come up with solutions sometimes.”

This year’s musical is the school’s biggest production yet. It’s also the first time the production will be put on in the winter (thanks to the shortened school year).

Whether playing a leading role or a tentacle, acting in a sketch between scenes, singing in the chorus, dancing, or working behind the scenes, all fourth and fifth graders have a part in the production, which has two rotating casts.

“The kids come prepared and a lot has to do with the culture of the school. They’re used to working together toward a common goal,” says co-director Jana Shaver, watching fifth-graders Oliver Stewart and Cristina Roche act out an impassioned father-daughter argument between Ariel and King Triton. “The children are really willing to learn and to take risks because we create a safe environment for them.”

Marie Vidusic spent weeks teaching dozens of dancers original choreography, which they perform with liveliness in synchronization. “I love Broadway and I want it to be as realistic as possible,” she says.

When the whole production comes together, you’d think you were watching a high school performance. Students at South Shores begin their arts training early, and it shows. Their professionalism, talent and confidence are remarkable. spt

South Shores Magnet School for the Visual and Performing Arts’ production of the Little Mermaid will take place January 23 and 24 at the California State University Dominguez Hills University Theatre. For ticket info, call (310) 832-6596.