Dave Dravecky Pays Visit to Raley Field

Story and photo by Rich Peters, MPG Editor  |  2018-06-29

A long line of fans waited to meet Dave Dravecky on a hot Friday night. Doyle and Rhonda Radford and their children Mason and Ellie were happy to get a few autographs from the former Giant.

Former Giant Throws Out First Pitch

WEST SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - Former San Francisco Giant Dave Dravecky was honored by the Sacramento River Cats last Friday night. Dravecky held a meet and greet with fans prior to the game before throwing out the first pitch and then taking the time to sign autographs for a long line of fans during the early innings.

Dravecky played in parts of eight seasons with the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants from 1982-1989. He made his Major League debut with the Padres on June 15, 1982 and was an all-star in 1983. The left-hander was acquired by San Francisco in 1987 and was 11-7 with a 3.22 ERA in 27 starts for the Giants.

A cancerous tumor was found in Dravecky’s throwing arm in 1988 and, after a brief comeback, unfortunately ended his career during the Giants 1989 World Series run.

After several surgeries, his left arm continued to deteriorate. On June 18, 1991, less than two years after his comeback with the Giants, Dravecky's left arm and shoulder were amputated. While his baseball career came to an end, Dravecky has since gone on to have a successful career as an author and motivational speaker.

“The challenges I’ve faced in the years following have taught me volumes and I now travel the country sharing the lessons I’ve learned—lessons on how to navigate loss and suffering, and how to experience encouragement and hope,” says Dravecky.

His story is an inspiration to Giants fans, baseball enthusiasts and beyond and that was clear to see through the admiration that he was shown at Raley Field. Visit davedravecky.com for more of his story.

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Born in the USA

Story and photos by Susan Maxwell Skinner  |  2018-06-29

For two breeding seasons, bald eagle parents have raised families high above the American River.

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Noted last year as the closest recorded bald eagle nest to Sacramento, the same eyrie was this summer blessed with more eaglet babies. These made debut flights earlier this month.

Orangevale kindergarten pupils named the 2017 hatchlings Poppy and Peekaboo.  Now 15 months old, these juveniles are established in new American River territory. The children retained naming rights and this year honored explorer Admiral Richard Byrd by choosing “Byrd” for the Alpha chick. They decided on “Rainbow” for the youngest.  The twins busted from baseball-size eggs a week before they were first photographed on March 23.

Nourished by non-stop room service, they achieved their parents’ great size in 12 weeks. At 13 weeks, they spread seven-foot wings and flew. Genders are yet uncertain; popular lore has the precocious Alpha as male; the timid Rainbow as female. Like Byrd’s heroic namesake, the Alpha explored air, land and water during his dramatic maiden flight.

Fledge days are stressful for parents and observers. Flapping boldly between trees on June 11, Byrd over-flew home base. His triumph rapidly turned to trial. The novice clipped a high fence to crash-land near a public trail. Without strength or experience for ground-level takeoff, his confusion was agonizing.  For 30 minutes, he beat a clumsy to-and-fro on the clay path. Observers formed a mobile shield against dogs and joggers until Byrd at last gathered speed and crested the fence to safety. Even after this trauma, the first-born refused to return to the nest. He ignored his sister’s anguished cries; he defied mama’s voluble instructions.  Explorer Byrd completed extraordinary traverses over the river at its widest. He drank from the waterside.

While on the lam, the eaglet was brought enough fish to prevent starvation but not so much as to reward rebellion. After three days, his parents coaxed him back to the family buffet.

Compared to Byrd’s surf-and-turf debut, his little sister managed a text book effort. Early on June 13, her papa delivered breakfast and evidently issued flying orders. Rainbow launched and, talons trailing untidily, flew 50-yards to an adjacent pine. Here she lurched before gaining confidence for the home flight. Papa soon encouraged an encore. This time, the debutant fell asleep on a foreign branch before heading home.

Having raised at least three previous broods, Mama Bald is a nursery pro. Her mate is younger – this is only his second adult season – but he is now a prolific hunter and confident dad. The parents’ combination of protection and tough-love comes with sacrifice. Exhausted four months of 24/7 hunting, mama and papa are now completing their parenting season. The nest is collapsing under the strain of many clumsy landings and sibling food-fights.

Repairs can wait. If this season follows the 2017 template – Byrd and Rainbow will be left in the care of sub-adult relatives while Mama and Papa wing off on distant vacation. By fall, they should return to rebuild and prep for a 2019 family. Hard lessons in self-sufficiency loom for the 2018 babies.

A testament to the regeneration of a species threated with extinction only 50 years ago, this American River family is well now established in Sacramento County suburbia. The raptors’ on-going residence is a joy to human neighborhoods in their flight-path.

Like the nation they represent, bald eagles are resilient. They’re also selfless providers, committed to family. They are single-minded in preparing children for independence.  They control vermin populations; they neither waste nor pollute. By instinct, they are fantastic stewards of the natural world.

Our national icon is well-chosen. From these fellow Americans, we might learn much.

Follow Susan Maxwell Skinner American River Nature Blog on Facebook.

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All Their Hard Work Goes Up in Smoke

Story and photos by David Dickstein  |  2018-06-29

Inside the Hengda Fireworks factory in China, workers add the final elements to Phantom Fireworks’ best-selling Brew Haha.

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - On a rare private tour inside one of the world’s biggest fireworks factories, deep in China’s mountainous Hunan Province where pyrotechnics were invented over a millennium ago, an American journalist surprises his hosts by veering off the footpath on the sprawling grounds. The large single-story building with busy workers inside looks too intriguing not to make a pop-in.

“Oh, excuse me … OK, OK, go ahead,” chirps Hengda Fireworks’ factory manager Wang Qunying in translated Mandarin, smiling and showing no signs of concern over what the writer for Messenger Publishing Group may see inside. The impromptu detour causes a bit of a stir for the 35 or so employees inside. All women and wearing company-issued blue coats to offset a springtime chill, their surprised reaction could be more about their boss’ presence and less a rare Caucasian visitor with a camera. Within a minute, however, the spacious assembly room is back in full production for a visual this assertive foreigner finds absolutely fascinating, not unlike how Charlie felt upon first sight of the diligent Oompa-Loompas.

What revelers throughout Sacramento County will light off and be dazzled with for maybe a minute or two requires an army of people and dozens of hours to manufacture. The process involves numerous stages, mostly by hand, and if the work isn’t tedious, it’s perilous.

The roomful of hard-working women is where the final stages are performed. Even though they’re working with explosives, the task of mixing chemicals and filling cardboard tubes with powder is done by individuals working solo in isolated bunker-like buildings elsewhere on the grounds. It’s a messy job mixing the 400 tons of black powder Hengda will need this year, but someone’s got to do it -- for the equivalent of $500 to $600 a month, a decent salary in the Hunan Province.

While some of the assembly department workers adhere fuses and tissue paper to the tubes, all manufactured on the premises, others at long tables a few feet away are giving the fireworks their final shape by fitting the pre-cut cardboard pieces together.

The stage before boxing, storing and shipping is labeling, done pretty much the same way for over 1,000 years here -- with bowls of liquid glue, brushes and a lot of stamina for assembly line-type repetition.

For two diligent assemblers in the corner, that and cardboard pieces to form a handle are the supplies needed to put the finishing touches on a beer stein-shaped fountain named Brew Haha, one of Phantom Fireworks’ top sellers in California. Since fountains, spinners, novelties and smoke items are the only types legally sold in the Golden State, there’s a decent chance these ladies’ handiwork will be delighting folks 6,500 miles away. For Sacramento County and parts of Placer County, the legal selling and lighting period is June 28 through July 4.

Brew Haha, designed and exported by Panda Fireworks for Phantom, is one of many U.S.-bound pyrotechnic passengers Hengda sends on slow boats from China, which makes 100 percent of what California will be celebrating with on America’s birthday. Located in Liling, which together with Liuyang 50 miles away are the collective heart of China’s $4 billion fireworks industry, Hengda is also home of Phantom’s popular Funky Monkey, Moondance Premiere and King of Bling, along with fountains bearing the TNT Fireworks brand.

As the factory tour moves away from operations and toward the entrance so we can safely light a sample of products, including Phantom’s Illuminati Triangle Fountain debuting in California this season, out of nowhere a throng of chatty blue-jacketed workers joins us on the walkway. It’s lunchtime for the factory’s 400 employees, and they’re scurrying off to the chow line. The faster they eat the more they earn because pay is based on output.

The herd of mostly female workers keeps its distance from the tour group except for one playfully curious woman in probably her late 50s. She yells something lighthearted in Mandarin to friendly colleagues as she catches up with the Caucasian reporter. Feeling puckish, the language-limited foreigner startles the worker when he stops in front of her and shouts, “Wo ai ni!” which means “I love you.” The woman is first taken aback, then breaks into laughter as she clutches her heart.

The affable employee might have thought the visitor was kidding around, but after gaining a better appreciation of the intricate, monotonous and hazardous labor it takes to make something so dazzling, yet fleeting, this newly schooled, fireworks-loving American meant each of those three little words.

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Citrus Heights Vietnam War Veteran Awarded Purple Heart

By Elise Spleiss  |  2018-06-28

Back row: (L-R) Kyle Parnell, Master Chief Petty Officer Parnell, USN, Josh Bonvillion, Todd Zancaner, Sgt. Patrick Parnell, USAF. Front row: (L-R) Roberta Williams with Khloe, Mrs. Karen Weiscopf with Weston, Purple Heart recipient Alan Weiscopf, Jaxton Bonvillion, Major General Lawrence Haskins, CA Army National Guard, Tosha Bonvillion, Keri Williams. Not shown: 2nd Lieutenant Robinson Hess, USAF ROTC. Photo courtesy Gigi Rayford

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) – “It’s fantastic to be able to say goodbye to Vietnam.” These are the words of Citrus Heights resident and retired U.S. Army Private Alan L. Weiscopf, 66-years-old, upon receiving a Purple Heart awarded to him on June 8, 2018. The ceremony took place 47 years after he was wounded in 1972 while serving during his second tour of duty in Vietnam.

Weiscopf was presented with his Purple Heart and citation along with two other awards and recognition for his service in Vietnam at a ceremony held at Stone’s Gambling Hall in Citrus Heights. A small group of family, friends, dignitaries and media members were present to preserve the moment and celebrate with him.

Matthew Ceccato, District Director for the Office of Congressman Ami Bera, welcomed guests and recognized veterans present. He explained the significance of the Purple Heart then introduced Major General Lawrence Haskins, Commander of the California Army National Guard, who would pin the long overdue medal on Weiscopf’s jacket.

Weiscopf spent two tours in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, serving as an Infantryman with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat and Team (Sky Soldiers) from January 1970 to January 1971.  He also served as an Infantryman with the 1st Calvary Division (CAV) on the outskirts of Saigon from December 1971 to February 1972.

The Certificate of Recognition from the City of Citrus Heights describes Weiscopf’s injuries: “On patrol on February 13, 1972, during Weiscopf’s second tour in Vietnam, his unit stumbled upon a nest of the North Vietnamese Army and was attacked.  During the firefight, Weiscopf was struck in the left cheek by a piece of shrapnel from a grenade.”

The Purple Heart is the oldest military medal and was originally designed and ordered by General Washington on August 7, 1782. Since then it has been redesigned to honor “all service members who were killed or wounded on behalf of the United States government.”

According to Ceccato, “As of today (6/8/18), 313,794 were awarded for service in Vietnam and today I can proudly say we can add one more to those ranks.”

He also received the Vietnam Service Award “given to members for service during the Vietnam War by all members of the U.S. armed forces.”

Weiscopf’s third award was the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, “a military decoration the former government of South Vietnam created in 1950 and awarded to military personnel, and civilians, and armed forces units and other organizations in recognition of deeds of valor or heroic conduct in combat with the enemy.”

Following the ceremony, Weiscopf stated he had tried 30 years ago to obtain his medal but was told his medical records could not be found so he “just gave up.” He got on with his life until he inquired again and was told they had run out of the medals which were back ordered.

The long wait came to an end and the presentation set into motion by military veteran’s advocates Marcia “GiGi” Rayford and Porsche Middleton who, upon realizing their friend had served and been wounded in Vietnam but had never received his Purple Heart, contacted the office of Congressman Ami Bera who took care of the paperwork and supplied the medal to be presented to Weiscopf.             

Weiscopf is the third of four proud generations to serve their country since World War I. Stepsons Sergeant Patrick Parnell, U.S. Air Force, and Chief Petty Officer Chris Parnell, U.S. Navy, stood by his side along with soon to be fifth generation, his grandson Robinson Hess, a member of the U.S. Air Force ROTC at California State University, Sacramento.

Along with his awards, Weiscopf finally heard the words that are music to the ears of thousands of Vietnam veterans who returned home in the 1960s and 1970’s but are only now hearing: “Welcome Home.”  Now they can get on with their lives.

A large thank you went to Stone’s for the use of their facility and hospitality during the event, to the staff at the office of Congressman Ami Bera and veteran advocates Porsche Middleton and Marcia “GiGi” Rayford for working together to make this event a reality.

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A City Full of Pride

Story and photos by Paul Scholl  |  2018-06-28

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) – Does a community get any better than this? Neighbors from all over town gathered together to enjoy the annual city parade, celebrating our red, white and blue heritage, being proud to be an American, and certainly proud of the City of Citrus Heights, the city that could.

Onlookers enjoyed the big (the SWAT Team unit) and the small (the tiny police car racers) of the Police Department. Big floats by Quick Quack Car Wash, Creative Solutions and others brought even bigger smiles from all the kids.

The parade treat featured some great classic cars carrying local dignitaries, pageant queens, and a great flag-waving float with Ray Riehle crooning patriotic songs for the crowd.

There has been so much good work done to build this fine city, and lot to be proud of while at the same time building an even better future. You could see the home town pride on every neighbor’s smiling face.

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CHPD: Annual Swearing-In, Promotional, and Awards Ceremony

Citrus Heights Police Department Media Release  |  2018-06-28

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - The Citrus Heights Police Department held its 12th annual Swearing-In, Promotional, and Awards Ceremony at the Citrus Heights Community Center.  The ceremony was attended by several regional law enforcement dignitaries, the Citrus Heights City Council, the Citrus Heights City Manager, Christopher Boyd, and members of the public.

During the ceremony, Police Chief Ronald Lawrence promoted Sergeant Chad Morris to Lieutenant, Officer Brian Barron to Sergeant, and Records Assistant Tiffany Campbell to Records Supervisor.  A total of seven Police Officers, nine Reserve Police Officers, one Code Enforcement Officer, two Animal Services Officers, four dispatchers, one Records Assistant, and five professional staff were sworn in and took the oath of office.

Fifteen volunteers and six Police Explorers were also honored and received their badges.

The following officers, staff members, and community members were recognized and honored during the ceremony:

•              Sergeant Eric Dias received the Chief’s award

•              Reserve Officer Gregory Cowart Received the Chief’s award

•              Officer Richard Vryheid received the department’s first baby delivery ribbon

•              Officer Daniel Tsverov received a life-saving ribbon

•              Officer William Dunning received a life-saving ribbon

•              Officer Jason Kohagen received a life-saving ribbon

•              Officer Aaron Johnson received a life-saving ribbon

•              Officer Justin Bridges received a life-saving ribbon

•              The Problem Oriented Policing Unit and the Code Enforcement Unit received a certificate of recognition

•              Officer Justin Bridges received a certificate of recognition

•              Officer Nick Oldwin received a certificate of recognition

•              Officer Bryan Gore received a proactive policing ribbon

•              Officer Chrystal Battaglia received a proactive policing ribbon

•              Officer Taylor Rutledge received a proactive policing ribbon

•              Officer David Tsverov received a proactive policing ribbon

•              The Property and Evidence Team received a team achievement ribbon

•              The Honor Guard received a team achievement ribbon

•              Community Service Officer Larissa Wasilevsky received a certificate of recognition

•              Long-time Police Volunteer, Donna McCain, received the exceptional volunteerism award

•              Long-time Police Volunteer, Charlotte Corothers, received a distinguished citizen award

•              Civilian Carson Boyd (12 years old) received the distinguished citizen award

•              Civilian Cheyanne Anquoe received the distinguished citizen award

•              Civilian Anthony Klein received the distinguished citizen award

The ceremony is the police department’s way of expressing a deep appreciation for all of the hard work, sacrifices, and continuous dedication every member displays to each other and to our awesome community every single day.

“The citizens of Citrus Heights deserve to be proud of their police department, as they are well protected and professionally served by group of dedicated individuals. Those recognized at this ceremony, as well as all of our police employees are committed to providing the highest of service possible.” – Chief Ronald A. Lawrence

Source: Citrus Heights Police Department Media Release

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Citrus Heights Chamber Honors Education Committee’s Volunteer of the Year

By Rosa Umbach, Education Chair  |  2018-06-28

Matthew Ceccato of Congressman Ami Bera

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - The Citrus Heights Chamber’s Education Committee honored Robin Stuhr as the Education Committee 2018 Volunteer of the year. The award was presented at the Chamber’s June 12, 2018, luncheon held at the Citrus Heights Community Center.

As an Atlas Disposal Industries employee, Robin has been an active member of the Chamber’s Education Committee for over five years and a member of the Citrus Heights Marching Band for many more. Four years ago, I asked Robin if she would assist me in coordinating the Student of the Month program.

There are dozens of tasks that need to be performed for the Student of the Month program. Robin manages the scheduling and is the essential link and communicator with the schools so their students are recognized at the Chamber’s luncheon.  

Each year, Robin creates the schedule of the schools for the Student of the Month program. Then, the month before the student is honored, she contacts the principal for information about the student. The schools are to provide a written narrative for the student who has exhibited exceptional citizenship and academic achievement and a photo authorization form so we can take and use photos of the student.  Sounds simple doesn’t it. Notifying the school is easy, but with all the programs and issues schools are handling daily, it takes time for them to identify a student and to prepare the information needed for the program. We have a very tight timeline to gather the information so the students can be recognized at the Chamber’s monthly luncheon. Getting the information requires Robin to be in continuous contact with the schools. It takes many volunteer hours to have an effective program. I am most grateful for the time Robin devotes to the Student of the Month program.

On behalf of the Chamber and Education Committee, I congratulate Robin on her devotion and volunteerism in coordinating with schools and performing the tasks needed so the students in the Citrus Heights school receive recognition of their achievements.

Local businesses sponsor the lunches for the student of the month and their guests. Rosa Umbach, Education Chair, was this month’s Student of the Month lunch sponsor.

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