A Giant Celebration for USF’s California Prize

Surprise Guest Willie Mays Thrills Audience

California Prize 2012Larry Baer (left), San Francisco Giants president and CEO, and USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J. (right). Photos by Claudine Gossett.

Just two weeks after winning the 2012 World Series, the San Francisco Giants organization accepted the 2012 USF California Prize for Service and the Common Good at a sold-out gala dinner on campus.

Excitement for the big win was still fresh as Larry Baer, president and CEO of the Giants, stepped to the podium on Nov. 12 to accept the award, only to be interrupted by a standing ovation. 

“It is a remarkable honor to be recognized by the city’s first university,” Baer said. “The USF California Prize is certainly a source of motivation for us to continue these efforts.” Baer noted that USF and the Giants have a lot in common: both are well established, both “wear ‘San Francisco’ across our chests,” and both have a mission to improve the community.

“The Giants are about more than winning baseball games,” USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J., told the crowd. “The Giants organization, from players to the front office staff, engages in community service and community building. That’s why this city loves the Giants.”

Since 1991, the Giants Community Fund has donated $14 million to improve the lives of underserved youth and their families. The popular Junior Giants Baseball program provides an alternative to drugs, gangs, and crime, serving more than 20,000 at-risk children every year in more than 100 communities across California, Nevada, and Oregon.

With the prize medal hanging around his neck, Baer introduced a special guest, baseball legend Willie Mays—perhaps the greatest player of all time. The crowd erupted in thunderous applause. The 81-year-old stood and tipped his cap to acknowledge the ovation, as Baer described Mays as one of the game’s great ambassadors.

Willie Mays
Baseball legend Willie Mays receives a standing ovation from gala attendees.

“Willie will pull up to the ball park, and kids will see him and yell ‘Willie!’ And you know what he does? He reaches into the trunk of his car and takes out a couple dozen baseballs and starts signing baseballs and throws them to the kids.” Mays spent most of his major league career with the New York and San Francisco Giants.

For an encore, Baer had the 2012 World Series championship trophy placed at the head of the stage for all to see. Guests left their dinners and lined up to be photographed with baseball’s ultimate prize.

Baer said he was proud to have USF graduates working in every department in the Giants organization, calling them “a force of nature,” and applauded USF for educating students who are truly committed to making a positive difference in the world. He also gave a shout-out to USF’s masters degree program in sports management, calling it “exemplary and very well respected.”

This is the fifth year of the USF California Prize, which honors individuals or organizations in the state that give back to their communities and support underserved populations. It comes with a $10,000 check to support the winner’s work and a hand-crafted medal.

The previous recipients are: 2011—Daniel Lurie, CEO and founder of Tipping Point Community; 2010—One PacificCoast Bank and Foundation (formerly OneCalifornia); 2009—Alice Waters, chef and champion of locally grown food; and 2008—Lynn Fritz, social entrepreneur and founder of the Fritz Institute.


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