The Exeter Lions Club 44th Annual East-West High School All-Star Baseball game will be held on Saturday, June 12 at Exeter Lions Stadium.
The game will start at 7 p.m. and people are encouraged to be present for the opening ceremony. The Exeter High School Madrigal choir will sing the National Anthem during the presentation of the American Flag by Exeter Boy Scout Troop 309, which is sponsored by the Exeter Lions Club.
The East squad is represented by Delano, Exeter, Famersville, Lindsay, Monache, Granite Hills, Porterville, Tulare, Tulare Western, and Woodlake. The East will be coached by Dan Costa of Tulare Western.
The West Squad consists of Central Valley Chrisitian, Cocoran, Golden West, Hanford, Hanford West, Dinuba, Lemoore, Mt. Whitney, Orosi, and Redwood. The West will be coached by Joe Garcia of Redwood High School who last coached the game in 1988.
Traditionally the power has arguably been on the West's side with larger Visalia schools making up most of the teams. History would agree.
Since 1972 the West squad holds a 21 to 10 win advantage on the East squad. But in the last 14 years, the teams are even at seven wins apiece. The East squad is coming off an amazing 17-14 comeback victory rallying with 16 unanswered runs after an early 11-1 deficit in last year's game.
That team was led by EUHS coach Steve Garver, who was also the coach for the game in 1994 and 1995. This year the East squad is led by first time all-star coach Dan Costa of Tulare Western High School.
The East squad also edged out the West in a 4-3 victory in 2001. The last time the East won back-to-back games was 1996-1997. The West team won three-in-a-row from 1998-2000.
This year's game will feature four Exeter players. They are pitcher Mike Pendleton, No. 2; catcher Casey Wightman, No. 15; infielder Carlos Gastelum, No. 7; and infielder Eddie Chavez, No. 10. Tulare Western is the only other school that is sending four players.
The last time an EUHS player earned game MVP honors was when Danny Riportella helped propel the East to 14-13 vicotry in 1982. The East squad is the home team and will bat in the bottom of the inning.
In 1960 Bob Heath, a young administrator at Exeter Union High School, began the Exeter Charity Baseball Game. With the help of several Exeterites, but primarily Travis Holmes, the planning was set in motion and the first game was held on June 11, 1060.
With Pete Beiden (Fresno State) as head coach for the Fresno-Madera County Squad, and Roy Taylor (College of the Sequoias) coaching the Tulare-Kings County players, the game attracted baseball fans throughout the San Joaquin Valley, as well as numerous professional baseball scouts.
Some of the other coaches assisting with the all star teams over the years have been Ray Strabble. Rod Kemp and Steve Garver (Exeter) Jim Garrett (Tulare), John Morrelli (Lindsay), Tom Buckley (Golden West), Gene Ethridge (Orosi), Bob Clement (Lemoore High), Bob Bennett (Fresno State), Len Bourdett (Fresno City College), and Bert Holt (College of the Sequoias).
In addition to Heath and Holmes, the originators of the game, other local area people lending assistance were: Dana Huffman, Joe Doctor, Ralph Wilson, Dr. Ed Feldmayer, Zeke Sikes, Ray Rivers, Weldon Johnson, and members of the Exeter Lions Club.
The Exeter Lions Club assumed responsibility for the annual event in 1964 after the game was well established. In the Spring of 1972, the north squad, which consisted of Fresno and Madera Counties, decided to organize a separate all-star game in the Fresno area. Thus, Fresno City-County All-Star Game was initiated, leaving the south squad to split up into the East-West All-Star Game.
The game is a tribute to the efforts of many people working in concert to showcase the best high school baseball talent throughout Tulare and Kings counties. Proceeds from the game are used for youth activities in Exeter and improvements of baseball facilities. The Exeter Lions Club donates approximately $30,000 a year to the youth of Exeter and surrounding communities.
Mickey Hirni of the Exeter Lions Club is General Chairman and has been hosting the event for the last 17 years.