James Leash: You spend a tremendously high number of days out in the community annually visiting schools. You mentioned to me that the Sacramento River Cats community relations department’s primary focus is to provide educational programming with an emphasis on children and families.
Tony Asaro: From the beginning, when the late owner Art Savage sat down with me the organization wanted to focus on families and children and be a good steward by giving back to the community. I got feedback from school superintendents; principals, teachers, administrators and parents because that is how you can most get to families. We focused on our School Assembly Program, Home Run Tours and field trips at Raley Field to make it so that the life lessons of baseball could be ones that teachers could use in the classroom to better educate children. We do over 200 assemblies a year, and reach out to over 200,000 students. The thing that is exciting is that you get to see the benefit of the seeds that you've planted out in the community.
JL: Of these programs is there one that is most dear to your heart?
TA: I have two. The AAA (Triple-A) Assemblies where I go to the schools to teach attitude, attendance and academics. These are three of the main core goals for teaching as listed by the State Superintendent of Education. Then our Home Run Tours, which are more intimate field trips. We adjust the program based on the age and interests of the participants from kindergarten up to college students. We provide two and a half hours of baseball math, baseball science and baseball history along with life lessons and a behind the scenes tour of the ballpark.
JL: You seem like the type that could easily win a Father of the Year award.
TA: I’m not perfect at all, (chuckling) but I try to get better all the time. My family keeps me very focused and humble, and my kids will always be the first ones to tell me wow dad you really messed up on that one. I love my kids and my wife and they keep me grounded.
JL: What do you like to do in your free time? Really, do you have any?
TA: I do love to play golf, and wish I could play more often. I played basketball when I was younger, and even though I didn’t like it much it was great physical fitness for me.
JL: You said that you’ve been working more on your health and fitness lately.
TA: Yes, I decided that I needed to get healthier so over two years ago I started to eat differently and I dropped about forty pounds. Along with that I’ve been trying to walk at least five miles a day during the week and 12-18 miles on the weekend. I listen to my music from the seventies, I’m outside and it’s beautiful.
JL: Why is it that I get the impression that everyone would want to be Tony’s neighbor?
TA: I think it is important to always reach out to others. We watch out for our friends and neighbors and they watch out for us. That is how this country was founded. If your neighbor’s barn burned down everyone showed up the next weekend to help rebuild it, and we need to do more of that.
JL: I’ve seen you at quite a few River Cats games and I know you like to stake out certain areas to watch a ball game.
TA: My own seats are actually right behind the visitor’s dugout a couple rows up, and I love those seats. Sometimes up on the concourse or down on the third base line is nice. There’s a great seat that’s up and behind a pillar and nobody ever sits in it unless the ballpark is sold out. I can take in the beauty of the game of baseball. From there I can watch what the manager is doing, or the third and first base coaches. The tiny little things that players do as they get ready to come to bat, or the second baseman preparing himself for a ground ball. It’s all the little nuances that make me love the game.
JL: With your work you inspire thousands of people everyday, year round. Where does your inspiration come from?
TA: Growing up I had many great mentors and role models that passed through my life. Many of them were my teachers and coaches. My inspiration now is in the children I work with. Some of the things that they will come up to me and say are phenomenal. They inspire me to continue to try to get them focused on finding what their true passion is in life.
JL: On your Facebook page in the “About Tony” section you wrote, “There is greatness within me, I believe.” You really do believe don’t you?
TA: I believe that each and every one of us has greatness within them, and you have to find what that is. And at the most challenging part of each day when I face my worst fears I will physically say that phrase to myself. It helps me to focus, and that focus is on love. And love overcomes fear every time.
Tony begins his 14th season with the Sacramento River Cats this year. He is a graduate of La Sierra High School and Sacramento State University. He lives in Carmichael with his wife of more than 40 years, Nanci. Together they have four children and three grandchildren. This past December, in honor of the Allegiant Battle for Veterans wounded warriors program, at 64 years old, Asaro competed in and completed his first ever Sacramento International Marathon.
For more information about high school baseball and youth sports programming please contact Samantha Bottari at (916) 376-4718, firstname.lastname@example.org or Tony Asaro at (916) 376-4844 email@example.com for school programs contact Meagan Schreiner at (916) 376-4672, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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