With the crack of the bat resonating throughout Angel Stadium as the Angels held batting practice, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer stood on the roof of the dugout and implored close to 2,000 local school kids to stay in school and go after their dreams.
Angels players, coaches, and broadcasters then stood on the dugout roof and echoed the District Attorney’s comments about getting an education and taking the high road in life.
The students were being treated to the Blue Jays-Angels game as a reward for excelling in the Orange County Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership (OC GRIP).
“We are here today on this field of dreams,” Spitzer said. “Every blade of grass is perfect. The mound is precise. Your field of dreams is your classroom where you get your education. Your field of dreams is your house. There is nothing you can’t achieve if you dream it.”
Several Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies, as well as police chiefs and officers from other agencies (many who mentor GRIP kids throughout the year) were also on hand.
The May 1 event marked 11 years of the partnership between the Angels, the county’s law enforcement community, and Orange County schools.
“This is the Angels opening their doors,” Angels broadcaster Jose Mota said. “This is the Angels saying we care about you. You are here today because someone cares a lot about you. All these guys you see on the field … All these officers and officials have worked hard and shown enough in their education and their interests and they care about you a whole lot.”
Angels’ coach Mike Gallego talked about growing up in a poor family, and promising his parents he would buy them a house once he made it to the big leagues.
“A lot of people told me I couldn’t do it,” Gallego said, referring to his dream of playing Major League Baseball. “I want you guys to know that the Angels will always support you in any way they can and these officers here are ready to help you. Put your trust in them. Put your trust in your family.”
GRIP joins with 14 law enforcement agencies as well as hundreds of community groups that take a multifaceted approach to redirect students who may be at risk of joining gangs.
Participating agencies include police departments from Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Orange, Placentia, Santa Ana, and Tustin, along with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Orange County Probation Department, Santa Ana Unified School District Police Department, and the California State University, Fullerton Police Department.
GRIP also partners with local agencies to provide families with counseling, parental classes, and after-school education.
Nearly 150 employees of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the Orange County Probation Department volunteer their time to give educational presentations to students, teachers, and parents.
The program was launched in two north Orange County schools in 2007 and since has spread to more than 60 elementary schools throughout the county.
“We are proud to see so many students making the decision to reject gangs and commit to making positive life choices,” Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes wrote in a statement before the event. “Their hard work is rewarded in the short-term by events like this one, but they will reap the true benefit of the choices they make today for many years to come. OC GRIP instills strong values and work ethic that will serve these students beyond their school years and throughout their life.”
Read more about the OC GRIP program: