In celebration of the 40th anniversary of its Athletics Program — 1980 – 2020, Mission College in Santa Clara is inaugurating an Athletics Hall of Fame, with an induction ceremony scheduled for Nov. 7.
Looking back, it was quite a challenge in 1979 for the Athletics Department’s first baseball coach, Sam Piraro, to recruit players for the first men’s baseball team at the new community college.
“Most people hadn’t heard of the school,” said Piraro, then 26. “It reminded me of Eastridge Shopping Center. It was like a four-story mall. And it didn’t even have a playing field.”
Piraro visited all the Bay Area summer baseball teams, trying to convince recent high school graduates to play for the then unknown college.
“I tried to sell the opportunity that they could be the first group to play at Mission College,” he said.
Piraro ended up with 26 players on that first baseball team, which had to practice off campus at locations like the Police Athletic League Stadium in San Jose.
Mission College’s field wasn’t completed until February 1980, just a week before the team’s first game. They lost four to six, playing Hartnell College, but won their second game.
In 1981, the fledgling team placed second in their league in the state championship. The Saints went on to win two state titles and five conference titles in seven years.
“Those were some of the most fun times of my life,” said Piraro, who coached at Mission College until 1986 when he transitioned to San Jose State.
“A lot happened while I coached at Mission. I got married in 1980 and the team came to my wedding.”
Players from Mission’s first baseball team became lifetime friends who have summer reunions with Piraro, now retired.
“It’s great recognition for the school to bring back people who played a significant part in building the athletics program,” said Piraro, a 1996 inductee into the California Community College Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Karen Yoder, Mission College Director of Athletics since June 2018, had the initial vision for an Athletics Hall of Fame.
“Its purpose is to honor individuals, establish pride and preserve the tradition of the Mission College athletics program by recognizing those who have made a significant contribution to the program,” said Yoder.
“It’s a wonderful way to show appreciation, to give them their moment of recognition and honor their legacy. It’s a significant way to thank them.”
The college invites the community to nominate former athletes, coaches and teams for the 2020 Athletic Hall of Fame: https://mission.prestosports.com/general/Mission_College_Alumni. It is also seeking sponsorship from individuals and businesses.
Athletics alumni are encouraged to share their stories and photos and fill out an online information form to help the Athletics Department update its alumni database. Visit https://missionsaints.com/landing/index.
Fact: Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball, got his start at a California community college — Pasadena City College in 1937.