The game of baseball has been dubbed America's favorite pastime; on Saturday it lived up to its honorarium by bringing together generations of Bulldogs for a friendly — and competitive — matchup.
The First Annual Turlock High Alumni Baseball Game and Home Run Derby drew 38 participants from graduating classes ranging in date from 1973 to 2010. The former players reunited to raise money for the Turlock High School Booster Club in hopes of promoting scholarships for future athletes.
The idea for an alumni game was first provoked by a former player interested in connecting the community, and fellow cohorts, after parting ways since graduation. Kyle Bettencourt, a Turlock High graduate of 1994, has previously worked with many different organizations alongside his sister, Kristin Bettencourt. This time, however, their volunteer work focused on one of their most valued memories of high school: baseball games.
Kristin, a ’93 THS graduate, has worked for Turlock High School since 1999, and was eager to relate her experience and commitment towards empowering the local community towards the event.
“We had a wonderful turnout,” she beamed, sporting a specially made alumni shirt alongside many other fans. “I’ve almost known everyone for 20 years,” Kristin laughed. “We don’t always see each other often, but the best part is reconnecting with everyone.”
With only a month of planning, the Bettencourts swiftly organized the entire scheme by ordering shirts for returning Bulldogs, obtaining food for the concession stand, and gathering a devoted fellowship of onlookers. Kristin said many businesses and community members supported the idea of a benefit alumni game.
“We have a wonderful town. It was all a local effort. We have donated food, and all were volunteers,” she said. “We are all family.”
The Turlock High's current varsity coach, Mark de la Motte, acted as if he were surrounded by loving distant relatives instead of a multigenerational “homecoming” crowd.
“This is awesome,” he exclaimed, glancing at the field in admiration. “I hardly ever get to see these guys. It’s nice to catch up. One guy even said we should do this every month.”
A few of the former Bulldogs are now living as far as Sacramento, and were eager to see high school teammates. Jeers, as well as jokes, were passed around as straightforwardly as if the teammates were brothers. Current players of THS also supported the cause by donating their time. The players met in a huddle before the game, where De la Motte offered a heartfelt speech aimed at the younger generation in the hopes that they would continue to possess a love for the game and their teammates.
The event began with a Home Run Derby contest, which consisted of five swings for each player. After many line drives, and two hits to one car in deep left field, Duraye Roque, class of ’97, was crowned the winner with two home runs in the final round, earning him a $100 prize.
As for the actual baseball game, the home and visitors team were split at random. Rob Mendonca, a professional baseball player in ’89 for the Philadelphia Phillies, and current social studies teacher at Turlock High, was coach for the Home team, nicknamed the “Mallers.” Blake Amador, a former MVP for the Bulldogs, and player for UNLV Rebels, played as visitors, nicknamed by the announcers as the “Amadorables,” a name previously used for his powder-puff team.
The game broke its early 0-0 tie in the second inning by the Amadorables, who quickly took the lead by solid doubles hit by Tom Mendonca, a former USA gold medalist, and professional player for the Texas Rangers.
Though no longer in high school, these players' instincts were crisp, allowing great defensive plays and sliding catches, including a fantastic fly catch by derby winner Roque in the bottom of the 4th, clenching a tight lead for the Amadorables. Their energy, as well as wisecracks, were relentless, often fueling the crowd with laughs and friendly commotions.
Two runs were scored in the top of the 5th and 6th innings by the Amadorables, while three runs were later scored in the 8th inning, putting up 8 runs total on the board before the start of the 9th inning. The Mallers, however, made a quick turnaround. By the bottom of the 8th, the Mallers scored four runs with fence hitting swings that put them steadily ahead.
The high scoring game officially ended with the Amadorables winning the first annual alumni game 9-6. There was no signs of wear or tear for these former Bulldogs. Their intensity and friendliness, as well as the local effort, made the game a worthy Saturday spent on a praiseworthy cause: companionship.