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Striking Back : Junior Angels’ Member Blasts Team for Ignoring Promise to Kids

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Aug. 27 was to be Patrick Stebbins’ big day. As a proud new member of the Junior Angels Club, the 7-year-old was set to attend his first major league baseball game, to watch the California Angels take on the Cleveland Indians.

But the imminent baseball strike--a dispute Patrick acknowledges he really doesn’t understand--may cancel the long-anticipated outing for Patrick and thousands of other Junior Angels, who may have to wait another year before they can watch Chili Davis try to blast one over the fence.

“That strike really blew me up,” said a sullen Patrick, whose mother, Katy, is trying to teach him as much about labor negotiations as she expects a 7-year-old to grasp.

If major league baseball players walk out as scheduled Friday and no agreement is reached before the Aug. 27 game, the strike could wipe out the big event of the Junior Angels’ year: the night they are to turn over money they have been collecting for the National Childhood Cancer Foundation.

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Patrick, who has raised $25 by clipping coupons (his mother pays him for the effort) and cajoling spare change from his relatives, is so disappointed at that prospect that he sat down at his mother’s computer and laboriously typed out an angry letter to the ballclub.

“Didn’t you remember that you have a game for the kids with cancer?” Patrick wrote. “I get in trouble when I don’t keep my promises and they hurt other people. We have wars and problems because of not keeping your word.”

Patrick has yet to send the one-page complaint to the ballclub but has fired it off to the newspaper.

Junior Angels pay $5 to join the club, which entitles them to four free tickets to each of two Angels games, a fan magazine, a chance to be an honorary batboy or batgirl and some baseball cards. Some said they joined just to be part of the fund-raiser for cancer research.

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If the Angels and Indians don’t meet Aug. 27, the ballclub hopes to reschedule the Junior Angels’ day at the ballpark later in the season. “I get calls all day long from kids wondering if there’s going to be a game,” said Corky Lippert, coordinator of the Junior Angels. “I tell them just to look optimistic, like I am.”

This is the first year the Junior Angels have raised money for the Arcadia-based cancer foundation, which last year collected about $11,000 through the Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros youth fan clubs, said Bob Pannoni, the research organization’s chief operating officer.

Pannoni’s 9-year-old son, Gregory, a Junior Angel member who plays Little League in Arcadia, said he, too, is angry that he might miss a chance to see his hero, Bo Jackson. But the strike, he said, may have one positive side effect.

“The good thing is I might have extra time to raise more money,” Gregory said.

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