Foundation renovates Boys & Girls Club
Magical Builders fix up clubhouse at Hunter's Point
SAN FRANCISCO -- Major League Baseball's All-Star Game has its host of traditions that go beyond the Midsummer Classic itself.
The Home Run Derby. The Futures Game. The Celebrity Softball Game.
But the work that the Magical Builders foundation does with the Boys & Girls Club of America annually in the All-Star Game's community is becoming a tradition as well. And if it's not quite as well known to the public at large yet, it is certainly just as important to scores of deserving youngsters.
For each of the past three years, the group, founded by Jon and Christie Frank and their Frank Foundation of Phoenix, Ariz., has spearheaded a complete overhaul of a location, with the help of generous local contractors, a handful of Futures Game participants and as many as dozens of enthusiastic Boys & Girls Club members and parents.
Working in conjunction with Major League Baseball and the Boys & Girls Club of America, the Magical Builders have helped renovate a local "clubhouse" in the host city of the big game.
This year, the lucky recipient among San Francisco's nine clubhouses was the Hunter's Point chapter, located in the southeast section of the city, not far from the Giants' former home at Candlestick Park.
And as part of the renovation, the club will be renamed at this Tuesday's official ribbon cutting, to honor perhaps the greatest San Francisco Giants player of all time when it is rechristened the Willie Mays Boys & Girls Club.
On Saturday, several familiar Bay Area baseball luminaries came out to Hunter's Point to help in the flurry of activity to upgrade the park in time for Tuesday's festivities.
Longtime Giants star third baseman Matt Williams came out with his family and got down and dirty in the construction end of things.
"I'm hammering and my son's drilling," joked Williams, as the two worked on a new redwood fence, which replaced an old chainlink fence that separated the clubhouse from the neighboring apartment complex. "He does all the dirty work."
The work included not just the upgrade of the fence, but tearing down some old and subpar playground equipment, all of which was adjacent to a big ballfield which hosts the "Junior Giants" teams.
"If you look out there, that's a nice diamond," Williams observed. "We need kids to play and they need space, and obviously those spaces are growing smaller and smaller. If we can preserve a place like this for them to come out and play, that's what it's all about."
The clubhouse, which overlooks the Bay, also serves as a weekly food bank stop for the area, and the hope is that the large patch of ground that once held the old jungle gym will be developed into an interactive garden for the kids to grow vegetables and fruit.
Rob Connolly, president of the San Francisco chapters of the Boys & Girls Club, said that they have been in talks with Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse restaurant in nearby Berkeley and the creator of the Edible Schoolyard project, to help develop that garden for the kids.
Meanwhile, the second area that was cleared, a few yards away from the prospective garden, will soon be the site of a new and safer play space for the kids.
While the physical transformation took just a few days thanks to the hard work of many, the planning itself started several months earlier.
The Franks sat down with MLB and the Boys & Girls Club officials to determine which chapter would be the most appropriate for this year's event, and then the details began to get hammered out.
"Then about a month and a half before the event we came to the site and started the meetings to really get an idea of what was in front of us," explained Jon Frank, an attorney in Phoenix. "Then we really, really accelerate."
Working this year with Sierra Point Lumber, which provided all of the wood and supplies for the fence, Frank Grossman landscapers and Alarcon Bohn, which provided all of the demolition work (all for free), the magic was truly made.
The Hunter's Point clubhouse was the perfect match, said Connolly.
"It was home to the Junior Giants and we knew it was going to be renamed for Willie Mays so it was the perfect fit," he said. "They did a spectacular job and brought in great contractors."
Among the young volunteers on the job were not just the kids from the Hunter's Point clubhouse, but also the teen leaders from at least four other local chapters, which made Connolly especially proud to see such cross-sharing within the B&GC community.
And the trio of Futures Game participants who came to lend their hands in the drilling and hammering of the new fence also showed an appreciation for what they were doing.
"It's great to get to spend a little time out of baseball, giving back to the community," said infielder Freddy Sandoval of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who grew up in Tijuana, Mexico. "And getting to help out kids makes it even better."
That sentiment was echoed by southern California native Collin Balester, a pitcher with the Washington Nationals organization.
"It's definitely a good thing to give back and help out," said the right-hander, who is the top pitching prospect in the Nationals system. "Going out into the community is always good when you get the chance."
The third member of the hard-working contingent was local hero Chuck Lofgren, a southpaw standout in the Cleveland Indians organization who hails from nearby Burlingame, and has been the hometown-boy-makes-good story of this year's Futures Game.
Lisa Winston is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.