‘Park rat’ reunion slated for July 31
Alameda’s “park rats” have something to look forward to this month: an Alameda All-Parks Reunion out at Upper Washington Park (aka Arnerich Field). The festivities will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 31.
The Alameda Recreation and Park Department’s Patrick Russi is digging out the old park banners that greeted the ballplayers of yesteryear, offering a decorated space for each team to populate.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Friends of the Park Foundation, which raises money for local park projects.
“Alameda is community that is proud of its heritage and legacy. Those of us who grew up on the Garden Isle often look back fondly on our childhood and the bonds we formed as kids. Aside from school, ARPD park and camp programs were probably the biggest conduit for developing the relationships of our youth,” said Kin Robles, whose PlayBall! blog is a popular spot for players in the parks’ baseball programs in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
“As we got older, most of us went our separate ways to college or career. But deep inside, I think we’ve all harbored the desire to reconnect with those friends who were once such a big part of our lives,” Robles added.
John Canalin, who Robles called a “Longfellow legend and King of the Slap Double,” is coordinating volunteers for the event, and Adrienne Chaix Alexander is rounding up all the park directors she can find to participate.
Canalin, who began playing in 1968 when he was 12 and continued through 1974 at Longfellow Park, said the idea for the reunion came after Robles released a documentary on the park programs. He’s looking for a few more individuals to coordinate attendance from some of the Island’s parks.
Canalin said the park leagues’ players still have a strong connection through their participation in the games, which were organized by park directors or the players themselves. About a dozen mothers kept tabs on the boys at each park, sending them home for dinners (or hauling them off when they were in trouble) in between innings.
The atmosphere was much more carefree than today’s more organized, parent-directed Little League play, Canalin said.
“We just had to show up with our T-shirt an glove,” he said. “You didn’t even need to have cleats. You just needed to be there.”
The event will also honor the park employees who managed the young players and also the late Alameda baseball star and former Major League Baseball player Curt Motton, whose widow, Marti, will be on hand to receive the honor.
“The park directors, people like Barry Weiss, Bob Howard, Bill Leitz, Doris Sullivan and Sandy Bertero, were our mentors and role models,” Robles said. “The All Parks Reunion will be another big love fest for a visionary community that provided for its youth better than most.”
For more information, check out this post on the PlayBall! site. And if you’re interested in helping Canalin by becoming a coordinator for your park, you can check in with Canalin on Facebook or e-mail Robles at firstname.lastname@example.org.