Southern California tribes bring home medals

Riverside Press Enterprise 8.9.11
Southern California tribes bring home medals

Joseph Burton, left, and Andy Silvas, both representing Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, lead Team California at the opening ceremonies of the U.S. Indigenous Games.


Nearly 100 Team California athletes in baseball, softball and wrestling scored bronze, silver and gold medals at the first U.S. Indigenous Games last month in Milwaukee.

The 19-and-under girls softball team members, who represented seven Southern California tribes, returned with silver medals from the Olympics-style sporting event.

"We did awesome," said Kathy Lopez, of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, one of the team's coaches. "We played Wisconsin for the championship and lost by one run in extra innings."

The under-16 softball team with head coach Richie Lavato earned gold, and baseball players on the under-19 team captured bronze.

The under-14 baseball team was composed of members from five local tribes, who set their sights on gold and emerged No. 1.

Playing double-headers for three days in a row did not faze the 12 young men who had been practicing twice weekly since April.

"They had to get to know each other and mesh as a team," said head coach Robert Seneff. "One of the challenges of having them from all over is getting together for a common practice."

In the final game, the team was down 5-0 against New Mexico with two innings left to play but rebounded to win the game 8-5.

"It was the greatest coaching experience I've ever seen," said Seneff, who has about 15 years' experience at San Diego schools. "I'm really proud how all the boys came together."

Other team coaches included Anthony Loza and Frank Miguel Sr., whose son Pops, 13, is on the team.

"I liked being catcher," said Pops, of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. "But the best part was taking first."

For many of the players, it was their first time away from home as well as their first airplane flight.

"The hardest part was getting used to the time difference," said Aaron Lopez, 13, of the Pala Band of Mission Indians.

John Peukert, of Morongo, did a good job pitching and has ambitions to be a Major League Baseball player some day. He has been playing the game for eight years.

"His parents are very involved with the sports programs," said Mary Ann Andreas, the Morongo tribal vice chairwoman.

She traveled to Wisconsin to cheer on the team and especially her grandson, Jacob Andreas, of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who has been playing the sport for six years.

Mary Ann Andreas commended family members who were able to accompany the young athletes.

"There were lots of fathers there and that's so important," she said.
Other team gold medalists included Emmanuel Hernandez, Isaac Blaze Norte, Wally Smith and Floyd Toro, from Morongo; Marcellus Lopez, of Pala; Guy Herrera and Steven Silvas, of Soboba; and David Smith, of the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians.

"The games went well and it was great that Team California came home with some medals," said Ben Foster, executive director of Temecula-based Inter Tribal Sports Inc.

Diane A. Rhodes is a Press-Enterprise correspondent. Reach her at 951-763-3461

Pala Band of Mission Indians

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