Willie Mays honors Hunters Point kids’ club

Baseball great Willie Mays spoke humbly about escaping his own impoverished childhood through his talent for baseball at a dedication for a new Boys & Girls Club at Hunters Point that will bear the Hall of Famer’s name.

Tuesday’s event served as a groundbreaking for the $5 million club, which is slated to open in January and will feature a full-size gymnasium, art studio and a learning and multimedia technology center.

Joining in the celebration were city leaders, Major League Baseball officials and other distinguished guests, including Mayor Gavin Newsom, police Chief Heather Fong, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Giants Executive Vice President Larry Baer and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.

Mays, 76, said that even though he was raised in a small town in Alabama, arriving in Hunters Point was “like a homecoming.”

“We had something similar like this,” Mays said. “I guess I was the one who had to get out … with professional baseball, I had a chance to send money back home to take care of what needed to be taken care of.”

Arguably the greatest player of all time, Mays, who spent all but one year of his 22-year career with the Giants, attributed his success to the “smart people” who advised him, including his father.

Mays has two MVP awards and tied a record with 24 appearances in the All-Star Game. He ended his career with 660 career home runs, ranking him fourth all-time.

“Understand that you’ve got to fight,” Mays told the audience, which included local youths and families. “The gangs have got to go. You have to fight to make sure your kids, not you, your kids, have to come up behind you.”

beslinger@examiner.com

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