Cooperstown: Where Dreams Really Do Come True …
The Cooperstown dream may have come true in 1996 when the first youth baseball teams played their first game on these magnificent fields in nearby Hartwick Seminary. But the dream became real to our South San Francisco Youth Baseball Team in 2000 when our local coaches dared to dream big too.
Mike Callero, Jim Bernadini, Jim Elder and Vince Leveroni were the founding fathers of our own dream team; SSF FOG, a group of 12 year old Bronco players who are given the opportunity to live out the fantasy of so many youth and play in Cooperstown.
Cooperstown, New York is a small village with a 2010 census population of 1,852 and is located a few miles from Cooperstown Dream Park. It is famous for its world renowned reputation of being the home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. This honor was bestowed upon this town (which is named after Judge William Cooper in 1785) because of the reported history stating baseball was invented there by Abner Doubleday, on a cow pasture, back in 1839. This dream of a baseball village started with a grandfather exclaiming “…every kid in America should have the opportunity to play baseball in Cooperstown!” and lived on in the heart of Louis A Presutti. Sadly Presutti passed before this dream could be made a reality by his grandson, Lou III, who completed this amazing feat in time to host the first competitions in 1996. To date over 1,200 teams from our 50 states as well as other countries have played in one or more of the 22 lighted enclosed baseball stadiums on this 150 acre baseball village.
This will be the 10th year that South San Francisco has attended and on Saturday July 28th our SSF FOG 2012 team will step onto this hallowed soil for one of their most memorable events ever. The team will leave SFO on Thursday July 26th.
This year’s team is coached by Gary Lutz along with assistant coaches Brian Lopiccolo and Lincoln Chew. Two volunteer chaperones, Juan Garcia and Kevin Lum will also be accompanying the team which is made up of 15 players. These players are chosen from the 12 SSF Bronco Teams where they honed their skills because of the coaches, managers, parents and other volunteers that make gave so much to these teams: Grizzlies, Angles, Elks, Blue Claws, Bandits, Giants, Vipers, Mets, C&L, Yankees, Titans, and the Red Sox.
The criteria with which these boys were chosen included being a good all around person, family support and encouragement, and on field skills. The cost for this week of baseball heaven is $5,000 per player which makes you appreciate all the fundraising that is done on their behalf. This cost will cover lodging, food, laundry, uniforms, airfare, and more. The kids will be playing every day from July 28th through August 2nd with eliminations on August 3rd.
Coach Lutz had this to share, “Coach Brian Lopiccolo and I started working with this group of boys when they were 7 and now they are 12. Through those years we have watched these kids grow and now our hopes for them to attend Cooperstown Dream Park is being realized. My expectations with our Cooperstown tournament is that we continue to build on our friendships and to make new ones that I believe will last a lifetime. I know from my experience as a chaperone in 2006 this is a very fortunate and incredible group of kids. While this will not be their final lasting baseball memory, my hope is when I see these kids again; we will have some great memories to share from this incredible experience.”
The experience also offers ‘Every player and coach will be immortalized by being inducted into the prestigious American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame where they will be enshrined. As a part of the Cooperstown Dreams Park experience, your team members will be awarded the coveted American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame ring – like the champions before them – and granted membership into this distinguished baseball club.’
“I was able to attend with our son back in 2006” Jeanne Lutz shares. “It was such a wonderful experience. On that last day of eliminations you cannot believe how these kids dig so deep and pull from their resources. It is a day of fire and magic. My husband Gary and I decided that day that we wanted to help bring a team back here again one day and now our dream is coming true. These kids are incredible. It’s all for the kids.”
The SSF Fog 2012 had placed well locally, coming in second in the three-day Twin Creeks Tourney in Sunnyvale where they played against six other teams. Another second place win for them at the 4th of July Dale Wilson Tourney, which exemplified the Dale Wilson Annual Tourney quote, “Let your bat, your glove, your game do the talking”. They had a tough loss after playing undefeated at the State Championship in Twin Creeks Sunnyvale, yet did a great job of representing for South City.
“I can’t tell you what going to Cooperstown on two different occasions has meant to me and my family.” Jim Bernadini says. “I was the manager for SSF’s very first team, and wow, was it fun. It was even better going as a parent a few years later.”
The lucky kids that have the honor of representing our city this year are:
A. J. Alston, Uriel Prieto, Nikoh Mitchell, Tai Garcia, Eric Casillas jr., Damien Lum (Bubba), Kyle Keahi, Ivan Vargas, Andrew Kent, Michael Carman, Jason DaSilva, Rudy Rivera, John Fitch, Eric Rocha, and Nate Deinla. And it is in part to those that started the SSF FOG team and those that continue to volunteer today to make this continue. “I hope we (SSF Youth Baseball) can keep this tradition going for my dearly departed friend, Mike Callero” Bernadini reflects, “It was Mike along with Jim Elder and Vince Leveroni and myself that created this yearly event that has sent well over 150 kids and their families on a trip of a lifetime.”
To see the schedule for SSF FOG log onto www.cooperstowndreamspark.com, click on 2012, and then go to week #9. Some of the games played on fields one through ten may be viewed via livestream and you may be able to see our team play in real time. Congratulations to SSF FOG 2012!
This was article was published in our weekly free paper, The Peninsula Progress July 25, 2012 Edition, written by Kamala Silva Wolfe. To locate your free copy contact the Publisher at 1 (650) 219-4313