City College athletics have always tried to create a family-type of atmosphere for its student-athletes. But for three Panther baseball players, City College is a part of their DNA.
Pitcher Danny Chavez, Jr., catcher Brett Bello and outfielder Jordan Woods all carry on City College legacies that began with each of their fathers, who also suited up for the Panthers in the ’80s and ’90s.
Chavez’s father, Danny Chavez, Sr., also pitched for the Panthers as a true freshman in 1990 and is currently an assistant on head coach Derek Sullivan’s coaching staff. Chavez, Sr.’s playing career was cut short during his freshman season at City after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
“Whenever you hear the word cancer, the first thing someone thinks about is death,” says Danny, Sr. “It’s a little rough transition, but all of a sudden, you’ve got to realize that the game of baseball has trained you not only to compete in the game, but to compete in life. So, basically, I was going to compete for my life now.”
Chavez, Sr., diagnosed in 1990, fought through grueling surgeries and week-long chemotherapy sessions, eventually overcoming the cancer and starting a family. Danny, Jr., born in 1998, is one of four children who all know their father’s story. Every time Danny, Jr. steps on the mound, he brings perspective.
“I’m here today because he survived,” says Chavez, Jr., who wears the same No. 19 jersey his father once wore. “It teaches me in life to enjoy all of it because you don’t know when your last pitch is going to be. He was the same age: 19 years old. You go out one game, and the next thing you know, you’re fighting for your life. I just go out there, and I love every minute of it.”
In returning to City College to coach this season, Danny, Sr.’s life has come full circle.
“I’m here 27–28 years later, so I like to think I’m still winning,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else but here, back at Sac City, coaching again.”
Eric Woods, father of Jordan, played on some Panther teams loaded with talent from 1984–85, which included 16 players drafted in 1985, including future MLB All-Stars Greg Vaughn and Jeff Blauser.
Woods was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 15th round of the 1985 amateur draft. Woods chose to take a scholarship to play at San Diego State University and was later chosen by the Chicago Cubs in the 29th round of the 1986 draft. Though he never reached the big leagues, Woods spent six seasons in the Cubs’ minor league organization.
“The transition from City to (Division I) was nothing,” Woods recalls. “Going to pro ball was difficult being away from home and just the lifestyle. You play 142 games in around 146 days.”
Some of Eric’s fondest memories of his son are when Jordan was a junior in high school, helping Roseville High win the Division II Sac-Joaquin Section Championship in 2015. Jordan hit .500 (8-for-16) over five games in the postseason.
“Coaches were intentionally walking him because nobody wanted to throw to him,” Eric recalls. “I’ll never forget how he played. It was a very proud moment for me.”
Jordan remembers his dad tossing him wiffle balls in the living room when he was around 5 years old.
“There were some accidents here and there,” says Jordan, who currently platoons in the outfield for the Panthers. “It’s pretty cool for my family to see. He taught me to play the game hard, play the game loose and have fun.”
Eric Woods played alongside Brett’s father, Brian Bello, at City College. Brian, coming from the small town of Dixon, California, says that when he got to City, he thought he knew baseball, but playing under coaches Paul Carmazzi and Jerry Weinstein helped him grow as a player.
“You think you know the game,” Brian says. “Throw the ball, hit the ball, but the actual game? Sac City is where I learned how to be a baseball player.”
The lessons learned in his time at City, Brian took to UC Santa Barbara, where he played on a scholarship after his City days were done. He then passed those same lessons down to his children as they grew up.
“It’s really cool to come (to City College) and learn for myself,” Brett says. “(My dad) got to go to a (Division I) school, and I’m looking to
follow in his footsteps. The biggest thing about this program is ‘best speed.’ We love to hustle. We outhustle every other team, and that’s something that he’s always taught me. You can go 4-for-4 or 0-for-4 in a game. It doesn’t matter. You should always be going best speed. That’s something that he’s been teaching me since tee-ball.”
So, who’s the better hitter?
“Depends on who you ask,” Brett says with a laugh.
“We are different hitters,” says Brian. “I hit more for average and contact, a line drive hitter. Brett’s more of a power hitter who drives in a lot of runs.”
Brian was in attendance Feb. 24 at Contra Costa College to witness Brett hit a home run for the second consecutive game.
“One more homer, and he ties me for my career,” says Brian.
Brian’s daughter, Michelle, also competed at City College on the women’s golf team, winning a state championship under coach Tim Kiernan in 2009. His youngest son, Nick, is a senior at Dixon High School who also plans to continue his baseball career at City College.
All three fathers say that they learned the most about the game of baseball while playing at City. And now their boys get to do the same.
“We groom, as we always say, ‘City Guys,’ and I’ll always be a City Guy,” says Chavez, Sr. “Now my son is in his second year here, and he’s going to know what it is to be a City Guy. That just gives me pride that he recognizes what it is with tradition and family. It just makes me proud to be his dad.”
For more info on SCC baseball, visit www.sccpanthers.losrios.edu/sports/bsb.