Boys & Girls Club dedicated to Mays

Boys & Girls Club dedicated to Mays

SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Giants' brass approached Willie Mays awhile back and told him they wanted to help add to his San Francisco legacy, he wasn't sure what they meant.

He'd already hit enough home runs, found a spot in the Hall of Fame and earned a reputation as one of the top players of all time.

Monday afternoon at the Willie Mays Boys & Girls Club at Hunters Point, he found out exactly what Giants president Peter Magowan and executive vice president Larry Baer were talking about.

Along with several San Francisco dignitaries, Mays, Baer, Magowan and Willie McCovey helped open the club that features an indoor basketball court, game room, library, heath and fitness center and, of course, a baseball field.

The club -- one of nine in San Francisco -- was opened with the hopes of becoming a "beacon of hope for people of all ages" in the community, said Rob Connolly, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs in San Francisco. "When you walk through this place, you feel hopeful."

Echoing Connolly's thoughts, Mays spoke of his fondness for the club in front of a crowd of more than a hundred people associated with the organization. He was jovial and self-deprecating, saying he was unsure of the project when it was in its initial stages, and that he "didn't realize it would look this good."

Typically associated with keeping the Giants in San Francisco and financing AT&T Park, Magowan was happy to continue helping the community. He said Mays was a major part of the franchise's history and tradition, as well as a key contributor to the city at large.

"To see him interested in this cause is great," Magowan said. "This building helps make this city a better place than it was yesterday."

Mays made sure to thank San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom for helping build the club. "I've got to thank Mayor Newsom in particular -- I might have to go to his office for help one day," Mays joked.

A fan of the game himself, Newsom said he felt obligated to help an area that he acknowledged is in need. Promising to help a community and actually doing so are two very different things, and Newsom was glad to put his efforts behind the Giants-affiliated project.

"What a privilege to be a mayor of a city where you've got such an engaged superstar like Willie," Newsom said. "This place really is an oasis for the people, and it comes from Willie, who's such a great ambassador."

Asked how often he manages to watch his hometown team, Newsom dished off an impressive amount of Giants knowledge. He was pleased with the team's ability to overcome low expectations, saying, "They're holding pretty strong for a younger club."

David Biderman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.