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Tri-Valley Hero: Cricket for Cubs, bringing community together with sport

Community Spirit recipient hosting showcase international tournament here next week

Cricket for Cubs hosts tournaments for youth cricketers and helps teach the sport in Tri-Valley schools. (Photo courtesy of Cricket for Cubs)

Wicket. Overs. Century. Test match. Googly.

Terminology that seems foreign to many in the Tri-Valley represents a familiar aspect of home for many others here, an athletic pastime ingrained in their families and culture but once invisible in organized recreation locally at the youth level.

Not anymore, thanks largely to the efforts of Cricket for Cubs -- the recipient of the 2018 Tri-Valley Heroes Jeb Bing Community Spirit Award.

Since humble beginnings three years ago with an inaugural youth tournament with 36 players, the Dublin-based nonprofit organization has expanded its reach to more than 300 kids competing on Tri-Valley cricket teams and over 4,000 other students introduced to the sport through its PE or after-school lessons in nearly two-dozen schools in Pleasanton, Dublin and San Ramon.

"In the last five to seven years, there is a huge change in demographics in Tri-Valley with the first generation of immigrants moving to these three cities from (British) Commonwealth countries where cricket is a primary sport," said Cricket for Cubs president Ramesh Immadi, who grew up playing cricket in India. "Cricket is part of the culture in these countries, which cuts across the religion, class and age."

"This sport brings the community to come together," Immadi added. "With so much stress due to the kind of education system we are in, this is a good way for our youth to relieve the stress, stay physically active and also, keeps them away from bad things like drugs, etc."

Cricket for Cubs volunteers have worked tirelessly to grow youth cricket in the Tri-Valley, not only among the students whose heritage is Indian, Pakistani or of other Commonwealth countries but also to introduce cricket to other American children who have no ties to the sport.

"The population of Pleasanton has become more and more diverse over the last several years," said Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne, who has attended his share of Cricket for Cubs tournaments. "I think it is important for our sports and recreational facilities and activities to reflect the interest of our population."

"Cricket for Cubs has been a successful venture throughout the Tri-Valley for those who enjoy cricket. Tournaments have received international interest, and I think it is very important for all cities in the Tri-Valley to support the growth of this sport," Thorne added.

Immadi said the organization remains proud of the leaps they've made in the Tri-Valley in just three short years, with help from supporters throughout the region.

He attributes the success to support from adult cricketers, coaches, sponsors and volunteers as well as the willingness of school district and city leaders to embrace Cricket for Cubs.

With the help of San Ramon, Pleasanton and Dublin city officials, cricket infrastructure is now a reality in local parks, including three grass cricket fields used by youth in the Tri-Valley, five synthetic fields available for use across the three cities and new cricket practice cages in Dublin.

And each school district has backed bringing cricket lessons onto campus, Immadi said. The sport is now on the PE curriculum in three middle schools and one elementary school in the Tri-Valley.

"While not yet a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) sport, many clubs are springing up in the area and have begun to capture the interest of our young people in the community. Our young people are very active and always looking for opportunities to compete in and/or simply play a sport. Cricket is another venue for athletic expression," Pleasanton schools Superintendent David Haglund said.

Getting cricket on the PE curriculum in all Tri-Valley middle and high schools and pushing for cricket to become a sanctioned East Bay Athletic League sport are among the top goals for Cricket for Cubs leaders going forward, according to Immadi.

They also hope to someday have the infrastructure and organizational depth necessary to host a yearly national youth summer tournament of over 50 teams from across the U.S. as well as an annual international tournament in the fall.

They are sowing the seeds for that international competition this coming week.

Cricket for Cubs is holding its second annual Thanksgiving week tournament, and a contingent from Malaysia will be among the 16 teams competing across U12, U14 and U16 age groups -- 38 games in all, between Patelco Sports Complex in Pleasanton, Fallon Sports Park in Dublin and Rancho San Ramon Community Park in San Ramon.

The tournament starts this Saturday and runs through the following Saturday, with a break on Thanksgiving Day. All games are free to watch, and Cricket for Cubs invites everyone to come check out the tournament this holiday week.

Hero FYI

* The Cricket for Cubs vision: "Promoting cricket, one school, one community at a time."

* That first inter-school tournament three years ago featured three middle school teams: Fallon (Dublin), Harvest Park (Pleasanton) and Iron Horse (San Ramon).

* Cricket for Cubs teams compete nationwide, winning championships including U14 Nationals in 2017 (New Jersey) and U14 Nationals in Morgan Hill this year.

* They also sent a U15 to play in India. The local squad won five of its 11 games contested in Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium.

* The nonprofit's top six accomplishments so far, according to Immadi: Increased awareness, being embraced by schools, growing to 4,000-plus students, community involvement, hosting an international youth tournament and new cricket infrastructure.

* This week's tournament is co-presented by Cricket for Cubs, San Ramon Cricket Association and Dublin Cricket League.

* Volunteers and sponsors are vital to the nonprofit's success. To learn more, visit www.cricketforcubs.org.

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