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 Lifetime in the Making

(photos by John Mattera Photography)

Ryan and Jenna Lusic’s love was a lifetime in the making. Having both come from Croatian families and being raised in San Pedro, Ryan and Jenna grew up knowing each other, and working alongside the other’s family.
The history between their families runs deep, as both of their didas (grandfathers) were involved with the Dalmatian-American Club. Ryan’s dida ran the catering for the club with Jenna’s mom and aunt both waitressing for him. When he passed away, Ryan’s dad and two uncles took over and Jenna, her sister and cousins began work there while Ryan bartended. Likewise, Jenna’s dida was the manager at Glendale Federal Bank where Ryan’s mom worked for many years.

However, it wasn’t until Jenna and Ryan worked together a second time that they realized they wanted more than a friendship.

Jenna, 26, daughter of Tim and Margie Meadows, began working at the Trump National Golf Club when she was 18. Ryan (or “Hatch” – a nickname given by his dad when he was born because of his “hatchet head”), 31, son of Nick and Kris Lusic, began working at Trump when he was 20. But because he is five years older than Jenna, he had already been working at Trump for three years by the time Jenna joined the staff.

The staff would often get together after work to hang out, which resulted in Hatch and Jenna’s friendship blooming into something more. In May 2006, they began dating. As Jenna would puts it, “Everything just fell into place.” So much so, they got their first dog, Bailey, together the very next year. In 2008, they took their relationship to the next level and moved in together. Then came their beautiful daughter Camryn in June 2009, an addition to their lives that brought much joy.

“We knew we did things a little out of order,” admits Jenna. “But to us, we were committed to each other, and marriage wasn’t a big priority at the time.” That is, until Hatch surprised her with a marriage proposal in October 2011.

Here’s how it went down: Hatch and Jenna, as well as all of Hatch’s family, met at Trump’s for dinner, celebrating his sister and brother-in-law’s seven-year wedding anniversary. The setting wasn’t unusual to Jenna as they often went to Trump’s for dinner. Hatch took Camryn to the back to show her off to the cooks (one of which was Jenna’s cousin Matt). This too was not unusual as Hatch still worked at Trump’s and liked to show Camryn off whenever she was around. Five minutes later, Camryn waddled of the kitchen holding a black box. Close behind were Hatch and Matt, who had a dessert platter in his hand. When Matt put the plate down, Jenna read “Will You Marry Me, Jenna?” spelled out in chocolate syrup. Hatch got down on one knee and proposed only to be answered with an exclamatory “YES!”

“Hatch did such a good job of surprising me,” says Jenna. “He really threw me off by using his sister’s anniversary as an excuse and having his whole family there.” It wasn’t long after that they decided to get married on April 14, 2012, a date that has significant meaning as Jenna had to get married on an “even numbered day.”

“I have a weird superstition with even numbers,” she explains. “I was born on February 4, 1986, was one of four kids, and had an even number on my basketball jersey in high school. I’m sure it’s the OCD in me but everything has to be even numbered – even the number of the gas pump I pull up to. So my wedding day was no different.” Not only is April 14 an even date, it’s also Hatch’s birthday, a factor that made the day even more special.

Having grown up in San Pedro, Hatch and Jenna couldn’t imagine celebrating their day anywhere else. Their ceremony, which was at Trump’s, hosted 300 guests and featured numerous meaningful moments, including Hatch walking Camryn down the aisle, something he was adamant about doing knowing he’d only get the chance to do so one other time in his life when she gets married. Then, as Jenna began her walk down the aisle – to the tune of Prince’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” – Hatch met her half way, coming to the altar as one. Additionally, their close friend Jason Dorio conducted the ceremony, and Jenna’s grandmother Joann and uncle Mike said a prayer and shared a blessing during the ceremony.

Hatch and Jenna also wanted to include all of their closest relatives and friends within the bridal party. On Jenna’s side were Maid of Honor Andria Kordic (Hatch’s sister) and Bridesmaids Katie Barich, Kelsie Barich, Christina LoGrande, Heather Thomas, Leea Sarmiento, Selena DeHart, Meghan Smith, Krysalynn Brown, Cara Williams, Danielle Herrera, and Breanna Stipicevich. Junior bridesmaid was Karly Kordic, and the flower girls were Camryn Lusic and Kelsey Kordic.

On Hatch’s side were Best Men Steve Kordic and Chris Lusic, and Groomsmen Matt Meadows, Rick Sysak, Bobby Fain, Danny Fain, Rob Piñel, David Hernandez, Ryan Diaz, Matt Bommarito, Aaron Reynolds, and Danny Sandoval. The ring bearer was Steven Kordic.

The day continued with the reception at Michael’s Tuscany Room, where guests enjoyed taking photos in a photo booth and danced well into the night. “Everything about our day was great,” gushes Jenna. “Our bridal party was amazing and everything just went our way.”

The newlyweds honeymooned in Las Vegas for three days, where they stayed at the New York New York Hotel and Casino and went zip lining and rode roller coasters.

Currently, Hatch and Jenna reside in San Pedro and are excited as Camryn enters pre-school this year. Jenna is a hair stylist at Andre’s Hair Studio, and Hatch is still bartending at Trump’s, works as a longshoreman, and sometimes DJs at places such as Crimson and San Pedro Brewing Co. on the side. There’s also a possibility of Baby #2 sometime next year.

“It’s funny how you can go your whole life thinking marriage was just about a piece of paper,” says Jenna. “But it really is more of an affirmation to each other. It’s special to be husband and wife and it makes the everyday routine more meaningful.” spt