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Let's celebrate flowers, books and baseballs

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Posted: Friday, August 7, 2009 10:00 pm

We've had good things to celebrate of late. They all involve blossomings, of sorts. The first is a blossoming of generosity. The second is the blooming knowledge, as our library has been reborn. The third is a renewal of baseball in Lodi.

A wonderful woman, a wonderful act of generosity

We received a little critical feedback for putting the story of Amada Perez at the top of Page 1.

As you might recall, Perez, 81, is the flower lady of the Grange Hall in Woodbridge. She's lovingly tended a flower display at the vintage property off Lower Sacramento, often transplanting plants from her own garden.

She hasn't been paid for this. It is her gift to the community.

Well, a few weeks ago, the flowers were gone.

A flower-napping, apparently. The thievery was duly reported to the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department.

In a world where we've come to assume the criminal justice system is sometimes plodding and impersonal, what happened next was as refreshing as a big sniff of gardenias.

Sgt. Mike Van Grouw called Lowe's and Color Spot. He asked if they'd be willing to donate replacement plants. They were.

So Van Grouw and Deputy Brad Cook loaded the flowers in the back of patrol cars, tooled on over to the Grange, and presented the floral donations to Perez.

She was thrilled.

We played the story at the top of Page 1.

Some readers grumped it was not a story worthy of Page 1.

But others said it was a refreshment to read something so unabashedly positive.

Isn't good news, news, too?

Thank you, Amada Perez, for being who you are, doing what you do.

And thanks to Van Grouw, Cook, Lowe's and Color Spot, too.

A lovable library gets more livable

"We are thrilled with what we have," said Library Services Director Nancy Martinez. Now she's back to worrying about how to find the money to finish improvements to the adult and teen areas.

The Lodi Public Library Foundation is the unsung hero of the remodel. Sure the city put some unrestricted "block grant" money into the project, but the foundation's success in convincing Lodians to support the library was the heavy lifting in the financial arrangement.

So we have a new heating and air conditioning system, ADA-accessible rest rooms, separate ones for kids, improved office space for the staff and an inviting area for youngsters to learn to love reading. Since the project had to be done in phases, we're impressed by the library leaders' priorities - kids first, along with an investment in the invisible infrastructure that keeps the library livable and efficient.

We wish the library further success in upgrading carpet in the adult area, creating a cafe seating area and improving audio media resources - a "sound dome" and portable listening devices called "Play-Aways."

Sadly, it could take years to raise the next million dollars.

"People have to come in and say to themselves, 'I want to help,'" said Martinez.

The foundation's annual fund raiser - a Celebration of Storytelling - is the most entertaining community fund raiser in Lodi. Professional storytellers are clever, funny and riveting. In years past, they have portrayed American Indian storytellers, John Muir and other historical figures. It's not often you give a check to charity and receive an education and a great dinner in return.

The date is Sept. 26. Tickets are available at the library and online at

Lodi Baseball Club does much more than just win games

The new Lodi Baseball Club is another example of the power of volunteers.

Except for winning seasons led by manager Leon Lee and the involvement of local builder Rick Souza, the Lodi Baseball Club shares little with last year's Lodi Grape Sox.

The big budget approach to small town ball didn't work well for Grape Sox president Stevie Mac, whose questionable past caught up with him as his Sierra Baseball League flourished.

Souza, a disappointed investor in Mac's enterprise, was determined to keep a summer program for college baseball players going here. And thanks to an army of volunteers and one paid staff member, baseball continues to thrive at Lodi's bucolic Tony Zupo Field.

"Is everyone in Lodi aware of the jewel that we have - Tony Zupo Field?" Souza mused. "It's got great history." Built decades ago, Zupo Field was home to a number of California League teams in the '70s and '80s.

Big-leaguers such as Dusty Baker and Candy Maldonado played A-league baseball in Lodi.

Souza overheard many out-of-towners as they walked into the park for the first time. "They didn't know that anything like this still existed in America." Los Angeles Dodger Kenny Landreaux had only heard of the old Lodi Dodgers. But when he saw Zupo Field he told Souza it was like stepping back in time.

Souza is justly proud of putting on 36 home games in a "great, kid-safe environment."

Souza estimates season attendance at about 10,000. And although there was no charge for admission, they passed the bucket and asked for donations to support the team.

A game near the end of season was Souza's favorite. Lodi won with a grand slam in the last inning. "It was as great a ball game as I've ever been to," he said.

But the real winner was the community which continues its legacy as a successful training ground for future big-leaguers.

- Lodi News-Sentinel

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