Junior Giants program hits home run in Hollister

In year two, the Junior Giants program has hit a home run in Hollister and surrounding areas.
The numbers speak loudly with 727 participants on 48 teams in Hollister and San Juan Bautista, which amounts to the third most of any local program in California, Nevada or Oregon, the local recreation manager told the Free Lance.
Talk about enthusiasm and need for a league that is entirely free to the players of baseball and softball. Ages range from 5 to 14, with teams broken up into age groups.
“The structure that we provide for the kids keeps them safe from maybe turning toward gangs or other types of behavior that can either get them in trouble or something else may happen,” said Tina Garza, manager of the Hollister Recreation division running it with co-sponsorship from Hollister police.
Like in other leagues, teams are broken up by age groups and they practice and play weekly. But unlike some other leagues, Junior Giants is non-competitive. Teams don’t keep score. They go through their lineups one at a time and then switch to the field, and vice versa. Junior Giants also includes an educational component, as participants are tasked with reading a certain number of pages each week in a program that lasts for nearly the entire summer.
Garza pointed out there is a nutritional element, too.
“For instance, one week they have health and they track their fruits and vegetables on a chart,” she said of the subject matter.
Garza said it shows how healthy they are eating daily, while players also pledged to have a soda-free summer.
Hollister Police Chief David Westrick is more than happy he brought the Junior Giants program to the area starting in 2015. Westrick said the extraordinary turnout of 727 participants goes with his two goals of offering accessibility to activities and employing community policing in Hollister.
“The strength of the program really is the accessibility for every kid in the county. It doesn’t matter about finances,” Westrick said.
He mentioned how every child gets a glove, hat, shirt and ball to play.
“That struck a chord with me years ago when I had the opportunity to bring it here,” he said.
Westrick also credited the Hollister School District for allowing the Junior Giants program to use the R.O. Hardin School field at no cost.

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