On Saturday, June 3, 2006 on a very hot day at Zupo Field in Lodi, I witnessed Colin Kaepernick’s athleticism and great sportsmanship in person.
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The San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback pitched on the Pitman High baseball team against Elk Grove in the Division I section championship best-of-three series and I was Sports Editor at The Galt Herald. Jon Gudel, Sports Editor of the Elk Grove Citizen, the Herald’s sister newspaper, asked me if I could cover the second game. Residing in Lodi, Zupo was three miles away.
Kaepernick went the distance on the mound, struck out seven, walked two and gave up eight hits. At the plate, he went 3-for-4 and scored a run in a 4-2 setback as the Thundering Herd captured the section banner.
Ralph Caraveo was one of approximately 400 people there that day. His son, Ryan, and Kaepernick played high school and travel ball together. Caraveo and I have known each other since our freshman year at Livingston High, in Merced County, when we played in the school’s football program.
Before that June game, Caraveo felt there was something special about Kaepernick.
“He was, and is, a phenomenal athlete,” Caraveo said. “I saw it from the first time I saw him play. He’s a competitor. Never full of himself, just played the game the way it is supposed to be played.”
Kaepernick, who also played football and basketball at Pitman, always showed good sportsmanship despite the outcome, Caraveo noted.
“Anytime he took to the mound or came to bat, we, as parents, were as confident as he was; you could just feel it,” Caraveo said. “I believe he was always playing a few years ahead of most of his teammates and opponents.
“He was just fun to watch and his parents were great people to sit and chat with at games,” Caraveo continued. “There weren’t any real standout moments that I could pinpoint, because he always performed at such a high level.”
Last Sunday, Kaepernick performed on the biggest stage in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Though my favorite team since elementary school fell short and lost, Kaepernick displayed grace and deserves a lot of credit for the 49ers’ come-from-behind rally.
As a former Turlock resident, I will tell you Kaepernick has made current and former Turlock residents proud. In addition, he’s helped put the 49ers back on the winning track.
I predict he and the 49ers will hoist a sixth Vince Lombardi trophy in the not-too-distant future.
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or [email protected] Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.