Jose Canseco returns to Bay Area to play for Pittsburg Diamonds

Jose Canseco with a young fan during an autograph signing at Winter Chevrolet on Friday, June 23, 2017.

By Jesus Cano

America’s favorite pastime is alive and well in Eastern Contra Costa County. The Pittsburg Diamonds have played at City Park since 2014, and this week welcomed back to the Bay Area, former Major League slugger Jose Canseco, as he spent the weekend of June 23rd with the independent professional baseball team.

Canseco is best known for his tenure with the Oakland Athletics from 1982-1992, where nailed 209 homeruns and 647 RBIs. He and Athletic’s first baseman Mark McGwire formed the Bash Brothers. Along with that, he captured a World Series ring in the 1989 Battle of the Bay that was overshadowed by the infamous Loma Prieta Earthquake.

Canseco is no stranger to the city of Pittsburg, as this is his third year suiting up for the Diamonds. He states that his favorite part of being back in the East Bay is being able to be around the young players the Diamonds house.

“I try to help them out with all aspects of the game,” Canseco said. “A lot of players actually recommend coming out to Pittsburg to play so I’m really excited for this weekend.”

The Diamonds have been part of the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs since their inaugural season in 2014 when they were named the Pittsburg Mettle. In 2015 when ownership switched to hands of Khurram Shah, they commenced under the Diamonds brand paying homage to the team that played in the same area back in the 60s.

Shah wants everyone to be aware that Pittsburg is home to a minor league baseball team. Even if he brings Canseco out for a couple games, he hopes to generate life-long fans after this unique experience.

“We’re trying to build a fan base,” Shah said. “We want to see a repeat of people coming to ballpark consistently.”

Pittsburg took two out of the three game series against the Vallejo Admirals during Canseco’s weekend with the team, where the Diamonds improved to 11-9 on the season.

Shah highlights infielder Vinny Guglietti to be one of the top guys on the team. The Connecticut native is batting .420 with five homeruns and 27 RBIs. Wes Wallace is another player that makes a huge impact according to Shah as he is hitting .364 and five homeruns. Shah states Tyler Stirewalt is starting to showcase his pitching ability. Stirewalt has 1.92 ERA so far, this season.

The Diamonds’ next home game is Tuesday night, June 27 at 6:30 p.m., to begin another three-game series also against the Admirals. To learn more about the Diamonds visit www.diamondsproball.com.

BART issues Rider Guide and route for Warriors Victory Parade on Thursday

Warriors Victory Parade route for Thursday, June 15th.

The Warriors have taken care of business by bringing home another NBA championship and now it’s BART’s turn. We’re gearing up for an epic day Thursday when Oakland hosts a victory celebration starting at 10 a.m. We’ve put together some tips to help make your championship parade day safe and enjoyable.

Ten tips for riding BART to the victory celebration in Oakland

  1. Be patient, it’s going to get crowded; our busiest hours in 2015 were 8am-10am
  2. Use 19th Street Station, avoid the much smaller Lake Merritt Station
  3. Buy a Clipper card (clippercard.com) in advance to avoid extremely long lines at ticket machines
  4. Look for tables with cash only $15 Clipper card sales at 10 of our busiest stations
  5. Parking will be packed; think about taking the bus or walking to BART or getting dropped off
  6. “Permit” spaces in parking lots are for permit holders only, a citation will ruin the fun day
  7. When boarding trains, move to the center of the car so more can fit, remove backpacks
  8. Don’t jam a train door- it will take the whole train out of service and everyone will boo you
  9. Some trains may not stop at Lake Merritt if the Rally Zone has reached capacity or crowding
  10. Our service will not match the published schedule so listen and pay attention

The Details

First, know that BART is going to be crowded like you’ve never seen it before. On the day of the 2015 Warriors parade, BART carried 548,076 people – second only to the 568,061 people who rode BART when the Giants held a victory parade on Halloween 2012. If you’re not going to the celebration and will be taking BART to work or elsewhere, we suggest leaving home early – maybe even before 7 a.m.

Getting to the Station

If you must drive and park at a BART station, consider getting there very early. Parking will be packed so instead, if you can, we suggest taking the bus or walking to BART or getting someone to drop you off at your station. 

If you do drive and park, remember that “Permit” spaces are for passengers who have paid for monthly and single day permits in advance.  Those without a Permit may only park in the “Fee” areas, which are First-Come/First-Serve.  If you park in the “Permit” area without a permit, you are subject to citation.

The Lake Merritt Station permit parking lot (located near Laney College) will be CLOSED all day.

Overflow Parking (NEW!)

BART staff is working to gain permission from parking lots located near BART stations that can be used as overflow parking. We will continue to update this information.

Fremont Station- Riders can use the upper lot of the City of Fremont parking garage located at 39701 Civic Center Drive in Fremont at no cost. Please use upper lot only; not library or police parking. Map: https://tinyurl.com/y8zp8qnj

San Francisco Stations- SFMTA has several public parking garages in San Francisco that are located within walking distance to BART stations.

From Antioch Park and Ride to Pittsburg/Bay Point BART Station- Lots A & C (lot B is still under construction) of the Antioch Park and Ride have 400 spaces available for use. Address: 1474 Slatten Ranch Road, Antioch, CA (this address drops the pin on the road that gives access to the lots for map apps) Enter the lot at Sunset Drive & Hillcrest OR take SR-4 Map: https://tinyurl.com/y9uckvqv  

From there, take a Tri-Delta Transit bus to Pittsburg/Bay Point station. Routes that will take you to the Pittsburg/Bay Point Station: 300 (express), 380, 388, 390, 391, 392, 393, 394

Tri-Delta Transit System Map

Map of bus stops at Pittsburg/Bay Point (for return trip)

Tri-Delta Bus Schedules 

Purchasing Fares

Don’t be the person stuck in a line for the ticket vending machine while Steph and KD are waving to the crowd. We suggest you buy a Clipper card or ticket at least a day or two in advance.

Go to www.clippercard.com and find a retail location closest to you. 

If for some reason you don’t, BART will be selling $15 Clipper cards at special cash-only ticket tables at the stations listed below.  We picked these stations because they had long lines in 2015.  Be sure to keep these Clipper cards and register them. They work on other Bay Area transit.  

Stations with $15 cash only Clipper card table sales

 4am-10am

·         Fremont

·         Warm Springs

·         Dublin/Pleasanton

·         El Cerrito del Norte

·         Coliseum

·         Bay Fair

·         Millbrae

10:30am-2:30pm

·         12th Street

·         19th street

·         Lake Merritt

Heading to Downtown Oakland

We are doing extra maintenance now so we can put every available train out to carry passengers, but you’ll be joining a half million or more fellow riders. 

The Lake Merritt BART Station will be in the epicenter of the celebration so it’s best to avoid it. We strongly suggest taking BART to either 12th Street or 19th Street stations in Oakland. They are bigger and they’re right along the parade route so you’ll have more elbow room. They will also be your best options for starting your trip home.

Trains coming from Dublin/Pleasanton and Fremont Warm Springs towards Oakland may skip Lake Merritt after 8:30am if the rally zone has reached capacity and has closed or if the station becomes too crowded.  Listen to announcements and use 12th or 19th street instead. 

Service changes to be aware of

The Pittsburg/Bay Point morning service WILL NOT match the regular published schedule. Some trains will be rerouted to other crowded areas in the system.

Specifically:

The following trains that originate at North Concord in the morning will be redistributed to other areas and will not run on the Pittsburg/Bay Point line: 6:59 a.m., 7:14 a.m., 7:29 a.m

The following trains that originate at Pleasant Hill in the morning will be redistributed to other areas and will not run on the Pittsburg/Bay Point line: 8:12 a.m., 8:27 a.m., 8:42 a.m. 

After 8 am every other train from the Warm Springs to Daly City line will not go to San Francisco and instead go to Downtown Oakland to serve the parade route. These trains will terminate at MacArthur Station.

At any time, we may need to skip a station due to crowding, or hold riders outside the fare gates and wait until the platform clears to allow riders to enter the paid area.  Listen to instructions from BART workers- we’re here to help.

What we’re doing to prepare

Besides getting all the train cars ready, we are staffing up to make sure we can quickly respond to any issues that pop up. We will have extra paramedics on standby and extra police officers on patrol including the Transportation Security Administration’s Vipr team.

We’ll have extra escalator and elevator technicians in our stations, and train technicians ready to respond to an equipment problem on a train. 

Code of Conduct

Finally, it probably goes without saying but we’ll say it anyway: smile and have fun. We at BART enjoy serving you on what should be a joyous and memorable day. We only ask that you show common courtesy to your fellow riders, follow our simple rules and -if you start to get a little impatient- think about the folks in Cleveland who wish they had a parade.  

Antioch Speedway to remember local legend Larry Damitz during season opener, Saturday night

Larry Damitz #15 after one of his Limited Late Model wins last season. Photo by Paul Gould

By Don Martin, II

When Antioch Speedway opens for its 57th season of All Star Series racing this Saturday night, they will do so without Larry Damitz. During the offseason, we learned that he passed away.  On March 11th, many of his friends and family came to remember him at a special memorial service.  His three race cars were on display.

Larry started his racing career back in 1953 and competed or helped others at the race track every year since.

“I’m really not sure what got me started in racing,” Larry shared in an older interview. “I’ve always liked cars and I started working on cars when I was nine.  I’ve always been interested in automobiles.  Another guy and I knew of a Hardtop that was halfway completed, so we went over and finished it off and started racing.”

He was hooked.  He continued to race his Hardtop at the old Vallejo Speedway and Contra Costa Speedway in Pacheco.  The competition was much tougher than it is today.

“They had one class, and they had enough cars that they had a C Race,” Larry recalled. “Every car in the Main Event could win.  There were always some Main Event cars in the B Main.”

Winning seemed to come easy for Larry in Limited Late Models at Antioch.  At 87-years-old, he was still winning and was track champion for the fifth time in six seasons.  However, he paid his dues to get that first win.

“I didn’t win a Main Event until 1963,” said Larry. “Everybody that comes out here and they think in their first year they’re supposed to clean house and win a Main Event.  They race all year, two years, don’t win a main and they quit.”

By the time Larry was done with Hardtops In the mid 1970’s, his resume included three track championships and a win in the Chet Thomson Memorial 100 lap race.  He was second to Gene Dudley by just 8 points at Vallejo in the 1960’s.  The highly competitive Super Stock division awaited.  He was Vallejo champion in 1978 and Petaluma champion in 1980 and 1981.  For good measure, he raced on Friday nights in Chico when he could make the tow and won 11 times in 1977.

It was 30 years into his career when he started racing at Antioch Speedway.  He won his first Late Model feature there in 1984.  He broke a shoulder blade in a crash there in 1985.  After recovery time, he returned and won 10 Main Events in 1986, finishing second to Ed Sans Jr. in points.

“Back then, the configuration of this track was altogether different than any other track,” Damitz recalled.  “It was fun to drive.  It was a lot of fun.  They had it banked right up to the wall, and you had to run right around the wall.  I just wanted to come back and run on that track some more.”

Larry ushered in Late Models at Petaluma in 1987 by winning the first championship.  He then took on the role of crew chief for his nephew, Milt McGinnis, who won the next two championships.  He started racing and winning again after that, but he again took on a helper role with Jim Pettit II.  He let Jim drive his car at times in 1991 as Pettit won that Antioch championship.

“Winning the championship definitely wouldn’t have been possible without Larry Damitz and everybody’s involvement in the the whole Sundrop Racing Team,” Pettit recalled.  “I mean, there were no balks or anything about me driving their car.”

After that, Larry won another three Late Model championships at Petaluma.  Track statistician Harlan Osborne counted 58 wins just in a 20-year span at Petaluma from 1987 to 2007, and there were more than that.  As the current decade came around, Larry entered his 80’s with no signs of slowing down.  Why was he doing it?  He loved cars, he loved the sport and he loved people.  Winning was just the icing on the cake.

After finishing second to Mitch Machado in 2010, Damitz won five of the next six championships and two more at Merced.  Jim Freethy bears the distinction of being the only driver during that run to beat him for a championship.  He wasn’t planning to quit.  He would have turned 88 in May and had every intention of competing in his familiar blue and orange Limited Late Model once again.  He had over 60 wins just at Antioch, and estimates are that he won over 150 Main Events in his career along with 17 track championships.

The loss of Damitz hit the people at Antioch Speedway pretty hard.  Promoter John M. Soares raced with Larry for many years.  As Soares enters his 20th season as Speedway Promoter, he had a crew put a special monument to Larry where he used to park.  He was an inspiration to many.  It wasn’t just that he could still win races at that age, but because he was a genuinely nice and down to earth guy.

On My 13th, Antioch Speedway will hold the Larry Damitz Memorial Race in Limited Late Models.  This Saturday night, there will be a special Memorial Lap as Antioch Speedway opens with DIRTcar Late Models, Limited Late Models, Wingless Spec Sprints, B Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Dwarf Cars.  For further information, go to www.antiochspeedway.com.

Antioch girl places third in nation at NFL Punt, Pass & Kick contest during Pro Bowl weekend

Kori Margain with her Third Place trophy in the national 2016 NFL Punt, Pass & Kick competition.

By Allen Payton

Antioch nine-year old, Kori Margain brought home the bronze by placing third at the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick competition during the Pro Bowl weekend in Florida, on Saturday, January 27, 2017. She was one of four girls to represent the Oakland Raiders nationally, but one of only four girls in the eight- and nine-year-old age group to make it to the finals.

According to their website, NFL Punt, Pass & Kick is “the oldest grassroots initiative at the NFL” and allows children ages 6-15 “to experience the fun of learning football fundamentals in an engaging and supportive non-contact environment.”

“Kori, a fourth-grader, started last November in a local competition,” said her mother Melissa Margain, a former field representative for County Supervisor Mary Piepho. “She won first place, there and moved up to sectionals and team competition, which was held in the Oakland Coliseum before the Raiders game in December.”

Since she was the winner of that competition, Kori earned the right to go the Raiders game, later that day and of course, Mom went with her.

The scores from that day from all the sectionals across the country were then sent to the NFL for comparison.

“They took only the top four scores from each of the 32 teams for each age group to determine who would go to the national finals,” Melissa explained.

Kori competed in the competition for eight- and nine-year-old girls and was one of the top four competitors from the Raiders.

The NFL selected the top four scores in the nation for each age category and Kori’s score was one of them, earning her a spot in the final competition.

During the competition on Saturday, “she placed third in the nation for her scores,” Melissa stated

“They sent the competitors to the Pro Bowl weekend for four days, including a trip to Disney World, interviews by the football players during a media day, and they got to attend the Pro Bowl,” said Melissa.

Asked if Mom got to attend, as well, Melissa responded with a laugh, “I did.”

This was Kori’s second year competing in the contest.

“I participated, last year, too,” Kori said. She made it to the team competition but not to the finals, the first time. Then, for this year’s competition, she said “I practiced with my family” to improve her skills.

“I competed on Friday and went to Disneyworld on Saturday,” Kori shared. Then they went to the game on Sunday.

The most fun Kori said she had was hanging out with her new friends from the competition.

“One from the Oakland Raiders, one from the Chicago Bears, one from the Seattle Seahawks and one from the Chargers,” she said.

Asked if she thinks other kids should participate in the competition, Kori responded, “Yes, it’s fun, you make good friends.”

Kori with some of her new friends from the competition.

Her favorite subjects in school are math and reading, and when asked if she wants to play on the high school football team, Kori replied, “No. I’m more into basketball.” She wants to be a WNBA player when she grows up.

A message was posted on the Antioch Unified School District’s Facebook page congratulating Kori for her success in the competition.

“Congratulations to Kori Morgain, 4th grade student at John Muir Elementary, who recently competed in the National NFL Punt, Pass, and Kick competition where she placed third in The United States. Prior to the national completion, Kori beat out thousands of other children in her age category and placed first in her local, sectional, and team competitions. More than 300,000 children throughout The United States participated in the event where they represented a professional football team. Kori represented The Raiders who recognized her at a recent game. Congratulations Kori!”

For more information on the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick competition, visit www.nflppk.com.