Sleeping In Dirt

What happens when 15 “Pedro Boy” dads decide to take 25 of their kids to Catalina Island for a two-night camping trip without maternal supervision? This is what I’ve been allowed to write (the rest has been redacted).

The whole idea started sometime during the Eastview baseball season when Mike Harper and Zlatko Josic approached me about a camping trip they were planning. My initial reaction? My father didn’t escape communist Yugoslavia as a young teen and live in Italian refugee camps for four years so that he could come to America and have his family sleep in the dirt while on vacation.

They scratched me off the list and kept planning without me. However, I later heard them mention Catalina and my interest piqued. They went on to say this was luxury camping, the tents were pre-made with cots inside, the nearby small town of Twin Harbor was only a quarter mile away with hot showers, great bathroom facilities, and a pretty good restaurant. I was sold (not that I had a choice after my son Kyle heard that his baseball buddies, Nathan Harper and Robby and Cooper Josic, were going camping and he was invited).

Fifteen dads, 22 boys and three girls (my daughter Katija was one of the brave girls) boarded Catalina Express on an early Sunday morning boat to the island. We docked at 9 a.m. in Twin Harbor and the first thing we all noticed was a band already rocking it pretty good in the outdoor bar next to the restaurant (this is the part of the story where Buffalo Milkshakes start to get redacted).

We were on the island five minutes, our stuff hadn’t even come off the boat yet, and my kids were already begging me to go down on the beach. Fifteen minutes later I relented. Five minutes after that, Katija came to ask me something and I noticed she was soaked head to toe in her clothing and shoes because she had to have a shell that must have been in ten-feet of water (the shoes, her only shoes on the trip, never did dry out until we got back home).

A truck came and got our stuff and we took the quarter-mile hike to camp – more like a mile, but who’s counting? Well, I was, because by now nature had called and the porta-potty facilities at the campsite were so sub-human that I truly considered the two-mile roundtrip walk back to town just to go to the bathroom. Instead, I pinched my nose and, well, you know the rest.

When I got out, I found my kids so caked in dirt that I considered filming them for a Sally Struthers PSA to feed the children. Because we had packed so lightly, I had to ration their clothing and there was really not much we could do because the campground was situated on a large patch of what could best be described as infield dirt.

What did I say about sleeping in dirt? I have to admit, we did have pre-made canvas tents over wooden frames with cots to sleep on. However, I’d be curious how much our group contributed to the local chiropractic economy after 15 middle-aged dudes slept on those things for two nights.

So, I was right. Sleeping in dirt is a stupid idea that only people who have the luxury and the means to afford comfort would think is a good idea. But, you know what? I hope we all go back next year.

We saw a buffalo and dozens of sharks in a lagoon while on a hike. At night, the children (and the men) delighted in having our campsite visited by deer and foxes. We snorkeled in pristine water among the beautiful orange Garibaldi fish that Catalina is famous for. After BBQ dinner (thanks Z!), 15 of the best dads I know sipped on cold refreshments and watched 25 of the nicest kids you will ever want to meet sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories, roasting marshmallows, and having a blast. I love camping. spt

Jack can be reached at

Leading San Pedro

“This town eats its own.” I recall a friend on the San Pedro Chamber board saying this while lamenting that San Pedrans aren’t great at supporting their local leaders.

Whether he’s right or wrong, I believe that for many years San Pedro hasn’t done a good job of grooming future leaders. For example, before I launched San Pedro Magazine, I was not active in the community, but got involved because it now became my business to do so. The first major event I attended was a chamber luncheon attended by approximately 250 people. Although I was born and raised in San Pedro, with tons of family and friends here, I didn’t recognize more than two or three people.

Over the next several years, I became friends with many of the luncheon attendees. A large majority of them are wonderful people who do a nice job serving a community they love, but most came here from somewhere else. On one hand, it’s good to have leaders in your community that can provide a fresh pair of eyes on its issues, but on the flipside, I’ve found it challenging for many of them to accurately reflect the will of the majority of the people because they lacked the relationships to be able to do that. Furthermore, it’s not a very sustainable model to have to constantly find leadership arriving from someplace else instead of developing leaders that grew up in the community.

In recent years, things have begun to dramatically change. Our councilman, Joe Buscaino, was born and raised in San Pedro, as was the newly elected president of ILWU Local 13, Chris Viramontes. These are young dynamic leaders with the ability to attract their peers into getting involved to create a powerful leadership force for our community. In addition to Joe and Chris, I’d like to add the name of Anthony Pirozzi to the list of young San Pedro leaders that can brighten the future of our town. And I’m not the only one to think so; the San Pedro Chamber is giving Anthony its annual Leadership Award.

Anthony is one of my best friends. We met in high school when everyone called him Yog (which I still call him). In fact, I had to get past knowing him as Yog, who we loved teasing as kids, to recognize Anthony, a man that has grown into a great leader. The first glimpse occurred when Anthony joined our other friends, Dave Stanovich, Ron Galosic, Scott Lane, and Tony Cordero in leading the fight to secure baseball fields for Eastview Little League on Knoll Hill. Anyone that’s either played at Eastview or had a kid play at Eastview (I’m in both categories) will probably agree that their effort to have the fields built is one of our town’s finest accomplishments in the past few years.

The fact that Anthony threw so much of himself at the campaign is not a surprise. Anthony and I spend countless hours on the phone (his wife, Carolyn calls me his second wife) and the thing that comes up a lot is his passion for helping kids get better. He’s very proud that although he was a mediocre student at San Pedro High, he was able to get good grades at Harbor, go on to earn a degree at Cal Poly Pomona, and become an aerospace engineer. He uses his role as a Boeing executive to speak to kids about their futures and has facilitated more than $100,00 in donations from Boeing to San Pedro charities that serve children, such as the Boys & Girls Club, Top Sail, Toberman House, and Cabrillo Aquarium.

After the Save Eastview campaign had concluded, I convinced Anthony to join me on the board of directors at the San Pedro Chamber. Upon his election as chairman of the board, I began to realize that our generation has begun to assume the mantle of leadership. I can say with firsthand knowledge that we are fortunate to have leaders like Anthony, Joe, and Chris because they care so much for this town that we all love and they all share the same passion for grooming the next generation of San Pedrans into great citizens and great leaders. spt

Jack Baric can be reached at

Dillon Field: A Tribute Representative Of San Pedro

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