Vallejo has seen a lot of great sports moments — on the field, court, diamond, mat or ring — over the years.
Many of those moments can be traced back to just one man: Andrew Trujillo.
There weren’t many people — if any at all — who exerted more influence on Vallejo’s sports-driven youngsters than Trujillo, the longtime Vallejo PAL Boxing Club Director.
The city’s sports landscape took a major hit in April with the death of Trujillo, credited with keeping hundreds of Vallejo kids off the streets for 40 years. He was 74.
His death is the No. 1 Vallejo Times-Herald sports story of 2022.
“He loved this city, and he was Vallejo,” a teary-eyed Jim Trujillo said of his father in April. “The rapper E-40 always posted kind words about my dad. That says something. He was a loving father and you know, I’ve never, ever seen him and my mom in an argument. And my mom is the greatest lady ever. I grew up in a loving household. I had so many people come up to me and say, ‘I wish I had a dad like your dad. I wish I had a family like your family.’”
Andrew had a rough childhood, surviving a car accident when he was 16. He spent a year in the hospital — an experience that changed his life.
“Kids came into the gym and knew he was the guy. They wanted to hang out in his office and be around his swagger,” said current PAL Boxing Club Director Tyler Terrazas in April. “I think a lot of people looked at him like he was a father figure, especially if they came from a single-parent home. They felt he was in their corner when nobody else was there for them. Andrew taught them that boxing was a way for them to sharpen their mind and be disciplined. He was a motivator and they felt his presence in the gym. He directed them to better themselves, sometimes without them even noticing it.”
Trujillo first started helping youngsters at the Mare Island Sports Center. In 2004 the club moved to its current location at 917 Marin Street, which is owned by Buck Kamphausen. According to Foster, Kamphausen loved Andrew Trujillo’s dedication to his community so much, that he only charged him $1 a month for rent for years.
“Andrew did all of this on his own time as well and didn’t get paid for it,” longtime friend Scott Foster said. “Andrew would take these kids on these out-of-state tournaments in this red van. Every once in a while he’d come to me and ask for something like $300 in gas money for the trip. I’d tell him, ‘You kidding me? Here’s $500.’”
The rest of the Times-Herald’s Top 10:
2. Benicia softball wins section title, competes in Northern California State playoff game
The Benicia High School softball team had previously won league titles and section championships. But in 2022 the Panthers jumped on their own Starship Enterprise and boldly went where no one had gone before.
For the first time in school history, the Panthers competed in a Northern California State playoff game. The Panthers, who finished 22-7 on the season, lost to Vista del Lago of Folsom in the first round.
“I mean, that’s the beauty of this, this is new territory for us,” Benicia head coach Kristin Grubbs told the Times-Herald in June. “These are bonus games. Let’s just have fun and be competitive and enjoy this. We have a great group of kids that have worked hard all year and we get to have at least one more game together. It’s a huge honor to go to NorCals, but we are playing on borrowed money. I mean, this wasn’t one of our goals at the start of the year because we didn’t even know it could be a goal for us. Our goal was to win a section championship and we did.”
Benicia won the North Coast Section D-II crown in May with a 6-1 win over Marin Catholic.
3. Lane Hawkins retires from coaching St. Patrick-St. Vincent High football team
After a nine-year run that featured a 2016 state title, St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School’s Lane Hawkins decided to step down as head football coach. He is staying on as the school’s athletic director.
The longtime coach, who was an assistant before taking over for Brennan Marion in 2014, said he knew that his time as head coach had run its course.
“It’s been a long journey and sometimes you reach a point where you say to yourself, ‘OK, I’m done.’ I have to start looking out for my own mental health and I want to spend more time with my grandson.”
Hawkins took over a program in turmoil in 2014. As the 2013 campaign concluded, the Bruins had won just nine of their previous 31 games with three different head coaches in three years. They also dealt with a hazing scandal that resulted in former coach Chris Cerbone receiving $4 million after settling his wrongful termination suit with the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento. Cerbone was fired from his job as head football coach after reporting a sexual hazing incident.
When Hawkins took over in 2014, his motto was changing the culture and “Recapturing the Bruin way.” It was two years later that Hawkins guided the Bruins to the top of the mountain with a 6-A CIF state championship win over Strathmore. The 29-28 win came on a 19-yard field goal in the final seconds by Gabriel Fuentes.
4. Minor League baseball coming back to Vallejo
After an absence of three years, Wilson Park will once again field a minor league squad, this time with the November announcement that the Vallejo Seaweed would play. The team was previously in Santa Cruz before owner Andrew Dunn decided in October to relocate the team to Vallejo due to a number of problems including scheduling conflicts.
“One of the main reasons I like Vallejo is the people there know their baseball,” Dunn continued. “We didn’t have time to keep fighting with Santa Cruz and Vallejo was willing to move forward immediately.”
The Seaweed are not affiliated with the Vallejo Admirals, who previously played at Wilson Park in a few leagues including the Pacific Association of Baseball Clubs. After Kevin Reilly sold the Admirals to Dave Phinney in early 2020, the team has not played a game, largely due to the pandemic.
The Vallejo Seaweed will be part of the 8-team Pacific Division of the Pecos League, which also has eight more teams in the Mountain Division. The Pacific Division consists of the Seaweed, the Bakersfield Train Robbers, the Martinez Sturgeon, the Santa Rosa Scuba Divers, the San Rafael Pacifics, the Monterey Amberjacks, the Marysville Drakes and the Lancaster Sound Breakers. Although all eight teams of the Pacific Division are in California, the Mountain Division houses teams in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.
The Seaweed will open the 2023 season in Monterey against the Amberjacks on May 23. Vallejo will open at home on May 30 at Wilson Park against old Pacific Association of Baseball Clubs foe, the San Rafael Pacifics, on May 30. Wilson Park will host 19 games, while the Seaweed will play 31 games on the road.
However, Greater Vallejo Recreation District said nothing with Wilson Park is finalized yet.
“We are currently under negotiations for Wilson field and nothing has been finalized,” Lanusse told the Times-Herald in an email. “I like baseball and do agree it would be beneficial for Vallejo to have more use of Wilson field. We have tried to communicate with the Admirals for over a year, with no response. Their lease expired after the 2020 season.”
5. Vallejo wrestler Rayhan Jaleel goes 3-2 at state championship after winning section title
Vallejo High School’s Rayhan Jaleel was difficult to beat on the mat in 2022, winning the 220-pound championship at the North Coast Section championships with a 3-1 win over De La Salle’s Stefan Bakiev. The match came down to the final seconds before Jaleel broke a 1-1 tie.
Jaleel went to the state championship where he went 2-1 on the first day of competition and then 1-1 on the second day. He beat Leo Kemp of Paso Robles before being eliminated by Adam Farha of Poway.
He finished the 2022 season with a 26-2 record and finished in the top 16 at state.
6. Ex-St. Pat’s football star Marshel Martin shines at Sacramento State
Although the Sacramento State football team lost to Incarnate Wood 66-63 in FCS Playoff quarterfinals in November, nobody could blame Marshel Martin after he caught 12 passes for 144 yards and scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
The game was played on national television, providing a spotlight for the former St. Patrick-St. Vincent High star and Times-Herald Male Athlete of the Year.
Martin finishes his junior year with 879 receiving yards, 13 total touchdowns. He is the all-time leader in Sacramento State history for touchdowns scored by a tight end.
7. Elite High begins varsity sports
In the fall, Elite High School began playing varsity sports for the first time, with the return to coaching of longtime Vallejo High basketball coach Duke Brown.
Brown is guiding the boys’ basketball team, which is currently 6-6 on the season. The Eagles defeated Esparto 78-48 for their first-ever win on Nov. 30.
The girls’ basketball team is currently 2-4.
8. Derek Walker wins first-ever league title with St. Pat’s boys basketball
Although St. Patrick-St. Vincent High head basketball coach Derek Walker has seen much success — including a state title — in his time at helm with the Bruins, he had never won a league title.
At least until 2022.
St. Pat’s and Walker accomplished that feat in February against visiting Salesian with a 50-42 win.
Maybe it was fitting that the Pride were the Bruins’ opponent for Walker’s big moment. They have stood in St. Pat’s way of a conference title for a number of those 14 seasons. In 2021-22, St. Pat’s grabbed both meetings from Salesian, with the other coming on a one-point thriller on Jan. 20.
St. Pat’s couldn’t defend its section crown, but made it a long way in the Northern California State Tournament for Division II. They won in the quarterfinals against Central, but lost the next week to Branson.
9. Ken Sarna puts Vallejo Flag Football on the map
The Coach Sarna NFL Youth Flag Football League was named one of the Top Five new NFL Flag Leagues in the country. Many of its players were able to play at the Oakland Coliseum in the fall.
Vallejo’s own flag football league has brought together over 500 kids and families from all over the city to play sports together while representing their schools. In the fall, Sarna’s league was invited to play Sunday on the same turf that hosted so many classic Oakland Raiders games.
“They’re gonna be looking up at this grand stadium while they’re playing there,” Ken Sarna said. “It’s just such a cool situation for them.”
The Coach Sarna NFL Youth Flag Football League is a non-profit league that’s broken down barriers in cost affordability for all kids — boys and girls. Sixth-generation Vallejoan and middle school teacher Ryan Sarna noticed that there weren’t any affordable local flag football leagues for Vallejo’s kids. He decided to start his own affordable league and make sure that any kid who wanted to play, could.
Over the summer, the league was invited by the NFL to New Orleans, where it was chosen out of 700 leagues in the nation as one of the Top Five new NFL Flag Leagues in the country.
10. Cal Maritime’s Alicia Porter recognized twice as NAIA National Player of the Week
For the second time in her Cal Maritime career, Alicia Porter earned National Women’s Basketball Player of the Week accolades when NAIA officials announced its selection in December.
The Simi Valley, California native received this award less than 24 hours after the California Pacific Conference named the junior guard/forward as its Player of the Week.
Porter posted the fourth-highest single-game point total in league history when she scored 41 points against Pacific Union — on 15 of 24 shooting from the floor combined with eight made free throws — to fuel Cal Maritime’s come-from-behind victory.
In February she scored 43 points in a win over Pacific Union, but also grabbed a school-record 28 rebounds in a game — also against Pacific Union.