Usher Big for Little Leaguers

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Source: prosaica, via pixabay (CC0)

This piece is one of six usher profiles I wrote that were published by Major League Baseball on the San Francisco Giants website in 2004. They originally appeared in my Guest Services paper newsletter, ‘The Home Plate.’ To read the piece online, click here.

SBC Park usher Frank Jimenez didn’t play Little League baseball as a kid growing up in Hayward, Calif. Some neighborhood pickup games materialized, but that was it for him. It’s interesting, then, that he is now enshrined in the Little League Hall of Fame in San Ramon.

The road from there to here actually started in Medina del Campo, Spain, where Jimenez was born. Frank’s father was born in America but had emigrated back to Spain with his family. In the years following World War II, the economy in Spain inspired Frank’s father to return to America with his own young family. Frank came through Ellis Island as a 2-year-old, en route to California.

Jimenez was last in Spain in 1971 to visit his sister, who lives there. He acknowledges the differences between the two countries, saying, “The lifestyle there [in Spain] is conducive to living. Here, we work more and build assets.”

He and his wife, Barbara (also a Guest Services stalwart), combined the best of both worlds with their own children by focusing on family and outdoor activities such as camping and Little League.

Frank met Barbara at UC Santa Barbara, where she was a math major. Frank got his engineering degree at UCSB and his masters at Stanford, then worked in Los Angeles for Pacific Bell for 14 years. He and Barbara married in 1973 and had their kids (three sons and a daughter) while living there. In 1985, they moved to Northern California, and still live in Alamo today.

In his 29-year career with Pacific Bell, Jimenez wore many hats. “The large variety is one thing that attracted me to the job, initially,” he explains. He worked as a line supervisor, power engineer, equipment engineer, space planner and in other aspects of the business.

Just before he took an early retirement in March 2000, Jimenez heard on his car radio that the Giants were looking for ushers for their new ballpark. Pacific Bell Park, that is. He laughs when he tells of handing in a resume with his Pacific Bell credentials highlighted on it. “I told the Guest Services manager, ‘This is serious; it’s not a joke!'”

After a variety of spots, including working as a transit aide in the opening months of the ballpark, he settled in mid-2001 into what is now his primary position, Lower Box 127-128. He received employee awards in both 2002 and 2003 for his consistently strong work there.

Before he was married, Jimenez had managed a Little League team in Santa Monica. When his own kids came along, he saw a great opportunity for togetherness and outdoor activity, and jumped in again. The whole family got involved, whether playing (his sons), watching (his daughter, who later played softball in college), or keeping score/co-managing (Barbara).

From 1986-1997 — “12 of the most enjoyable years I can remember” — he dedicated enormous amounts of time and energy to the San Ramon Valley Little League as a coach and manager. In 1987, they represented the Western region in the Little League World Series, where they won the American bracket and lost against the Taiwanese team.

Throughout his tenure with the league, Jimenez was rarely involved with fewer than two teams a season, if not more. In 1992 he worked with three teams — managing a T-ball team, and coaching on a Major and a Senior Major team. It was a six-day-a-week job, where he perfected the art of discreetly changing clothes in his car between work and games or practice — the Superman of San Ramon. “I lost 15 pounds that year, which was 10 percent of my body weight,” he jokes.

This past March, Jimenez was inducted into the Little League Hall of Fame, at Los Cerros Field in San Ramon, along with two others. He was nominated by men he’d coached with over the years and is one of the very few inductees who had not served as an officer in the league. It was a singular honor in a league that Jimenez describes as “extremely competitive.”

“It was a shock — I thought they were going to ask me to take another team,” he says of the phone call he received. And, he thought, “Wait, I’m out of kids!”

Last November, Frank and Barbara went on the yearly Caribbean cruise sponsored by the Giants. For a week, they interacted with such stellar alumni as Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Tito Fuentes and Felipe Alou. They report that the alumni made themselves completely available to the fans on the cruise, making for a memorable experience.

Meanwhile, down in Lower Box 127-128, Jimenez is doing his thing and enjoying his long-held job. Of his regular fans, he says, “They’re like my guests, and I don’t want to trust them to other people.” With his distinctive laugh, he adds, “Isn’t that horrible?” In fact, we guess that his fans think it’s pretty terrific.

Author: paulaonpoint

I live in Oakland, CA and am a native of Trenton, NJ. I love everything about the ocean, especially friendly whales. I'm a warrior in the fight to protect and restore Planet Earth. And I'm a cat person, as Ziggy and ZuZu can attest.

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