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Taking Laguna Out to the Ball Game

Angels center fielder Pete Bourjos told TOW students of the importance of staying in school at an assembly Tuesday, kicking off tickets sales for Laguna Family Night at the baseball park. Photo by Ted Reckas.

Laguna Family Night at Angels Stadium was cooked up by resourceful parents at a neighborhood barbecue as a fun-with-kids outing that also benefited Laguna schools. Now in its third year, the event planned for Saturday, June 11, comes with all the fixings of a full-blown annual community tradition.

As a result, when Laguna residents settle in their seats to see the Angels take on the Kansas City Royals in six weeks, they are likely to encounter familiar faces as everyone in their section will be from their home town. On the field, too, will be familiar names. Laguna Beach High School valedictorian Bianca Sganga will throw the first pitch. Thurston eighth-grader Tristen Nolan will announce “play ball.” Junior Sarah Busic, star of the high school’s musical “Footloose,” will sing the national anthem. And the honors chorus from the district’s two elementary schools will perform during the seventh inning stretch.

“It was like sitting on the beach here in Laguna,” said organizer Kendall Clark of last year’s event, “only everyone happened to be at Angels stadium.”

John Carpino, a Laguna Beach parent and the club’s president, is the man orchestrating behind the curtain. He seized the opportunity, a double play that combines his passions for community and baseball.

TOW student Carry Rogers, who won a baseball autographed by Pete Bourjos, left, happily walks off stage as Angels President and Laguna parent John Carpino, right, looks on.

“It’s a win-win situation,” he said. The “community-minded” Angels organization benefits by cultivating fans among kids and their families and the schools benefit from collecting half the ticket proceeds.

At kick-off assemblies on Tuesday at three schools, Carpino brought along Angels’ center fielder Peter Bourjos to get students excited about selling tickets and an outing at the ball park.

“We’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to do this,” said Elaine Brashier, president of El Morro’s  PTA, who praised Carpino’s dedication to the success of this fun community event.

Tickets went on sale this week for $10 each and can be purchased from students or by going to www.LBUSD.org and clicking on “Angels Family Night” under “Quicklinks.” The order form allows ticket buyers to designate a school as a recipient for half the ticket price. The schools will also be selling $1 raffle tickets for various prizes, including autographed Angels memorabilia, as well as “experience” prizes, such as the chance to steal third base. (Literally, the winner gets to run from home to third base, steal the base, and take it home!)

As an added bonus for young music lovers, Taio Cruz, singer of the hit “Dynamite,” will perform a post-game concert.

Carpino, Clark and Brashier, the three main “movers” behind the fundraiser say, it’s an “easy” sell. While Carpino claims he does little, Clark and Brashier say Angels’ staff takes care of the details. Parents need only encourage student participation and enlist their friends in buying tickets, Brashier said.

The fledgling fundraiser in 2009 grossed about $4,000 for the schools. Even so, organizers decided the concept needed a little tweaking. The first year lacked a designated seating section for locals and tickets were sold to games on three different nights. They learned of a similar alliance between Mill Valley and the San Francisco Giants with special seating and involving students on the field.

So following Mill Valley’s model, Laguna Family Night last year was a one-day event with students in VIP roles. They hit it out of the park. The event grossed 50 percent more and being in the company of friends and neighbors “was priceless,” said Clark.

Chorus teacher Beth Sand felt the same way about having the 68-member chorus from TOW and El Morro sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the seventh inning stretch last year. At the time, she was told by their Angels’ liaison that it was a “one time only” event because the logistics were so complicated.

Usually the singer stands atop the dugout with a microphone. That wasn’t an option for 68 kids. There are major league rules about how many people can be on the field during a game. In the end, the kids trekked through the bowels of the stadium and were instructed that once announced, they had 10 seconds to get into formation on a specific section of the 10-foot wide warning track.

“I’ve never seen the kids move so fast,” said Sand. “The organ played the introduction to the song and we started singing at the top of our lungs and the entire stadium followed!” She said the experience was one the kids would never forget.

When Sands learned they were invited again, despite the one-time-only warning, she was flabbergasted and thrilled. When students learned the news at the next rehearsal, they leapt to their feet, cheering and yelling.

“It’s turning into this feel good, hopefully city-wide event,” said Clark, “The camaraderie is what it’s really all about.”

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