Approximately 2,000 at-risk youth were treated like VIPs at May 2’s Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Angels) game in reward for refusing to join a gang while improving school attendance and behavior. This special event marked the 10th year in which students who rose to the challenge issued by Orange County Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership (OC GRIP). The OC GRIP kids attended the game, were greeted by the players, watched the team warm up during batting practice and received dinner. The name of each school in attendance was displayed on the Angel Vision JumboTron during the event. Angels players Noé Ramirez and Justin Upton, as well as third base coach Dino Ebel, mental conditioning coach Will Lenzner, manager Mike Scioscia, and Angels broadcaster Jose Mota motivated the students with their experiences.
Thanks to the generosity of the Angels, approximately 2,000 students in fourth through eighth grade accompanied by roughly 100 teacher chaperones attended the game for free. Due to the partnership with law enforcement organizations, personnel from various departments were also in attendance to congratulate the students on their accomplishments, including Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
“The GRIP kids who earned their attendance at this game showed their teachers and community every day that they will work hard for the rewards they want in life,” said Rackauckas. “Many Angels players had similar upbringings, and hearing their first-hand accounts has inspired GRIP students for ten years now. I especially want to thank Angels Vice President of Communications Tim Mead and the entire Angels organization for helping to create such a memorable day for these kids.”
“The short and long-term results of this most impressive program should serve as a model for other communities not only in our state, but across the country,” said Mead. “GRIP is a proactive concept that makes a difference in the lives of youngsters at such a formative time in their lives. We are proud and privileged to assist District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Senior Assistant District Attorney Tracy Miller and all those involved in this impactful effort.”
Students arrived at 3 p.m. and had early access to Angel Stadium, where they sat behind the dugout and were greeted by Angels players and staff before the team stretch and warm up. The Angels faced the Baltimore Orioles.
Representatives from Saddleback Church entertained the students with games and prizes between batting practice and the game. Participating law enforcement agencies included police departments in the Cities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Orange, Placentia and Santa Ana, as well as the Santa Ana Unified School District Police, California State University Fullerton Police, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Orange County Probation Department, and the Orange County District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation.
“We are pleased to see so many students meet the OC GRIP/Angels challenge by making good decisions and demonstrating excellent behavior,” said Santa Ana Police Chief David Valentin. “The OC GRIP/Angels baseball game incentive and this extraordinary partnership continues to demonstrate the power of the community and positive influence coming together to keep at-risk students out of gangs and in school.”