70 years strong for South Gate youth sports program


SGJAA Facebook account

SGJAA teaches youth participants the fundamentals of baseball, softball, and basketball.

Alysia Burke, Community News Reporter

As the city of South Gate celebrates its Centennial Year, some in the community are reflecting on the importance of the South Gate Junior Athletic Association (SGJAA), which has been a part of the community for more than half of its existence.

“I think it’s one of the biggest assets of the community,” said South Gate City Council member Joshua Barron, who has participated in SGJAA since he was 5 years old. Barron started as a baseball and basketball player and then turned to coaching at age 17. “It’s always been a family-based program. Always pushed recreation and getting kids involved in sports.”

SGJAA is a recreational program for children ages 5-17 founded in 1952. According to the organization’s Facebook page, SGJAA provides structured and supervised sports programs for over 2,000 children in the South Gate community. The emphasis of the program is on participation rather than winning.

Parents can sign their children up for any of the two seasons per year to learn the fundamentals of baseball, basketball, or softball from volunteer coaches from the community. Tryouts are held to assess the athletic ability and experience of each child, and teams/divisions are determined by this and age.

The current president of the program Gil Hurtado, who also serves as the Vice Mayor of South Gate, believes this program has sustained so long due to its focus on the community and its affordability.

Hurtado was first introduced to the program in 1990 when he went to sign his son up for baseball. During that experience, he found the process of signing up to be a bit disorganized and ultimately decided to volunteer after speaking with some of the staff. When the year ended, he became the new president.

Since taking over for SGJAA, Hurtado has made sure the one thing that does not stand in the way of the kids being able to participate is money. “The fee here is $80. That’s it. It’s open to all kids even if they do not live in South Gate,” said Hurtado.

He told of a time when his father could not afford sporting equipment, and when he and his friends played in a neighboring town using fake addresses to avoid paying fees. “We keep the cost as low as we can,” added Hurtado. “Each kid is given a free jersey and we encourage the parents to not buy any expensive equipment. Especially if the kid is just starting out.”

As the father of three daughters, Barron also praised SGJAA and the city for keeping the price of participation low; especially for families with more than one child. “Number one thing is it’s affordable,” he said. “It’s hard to put multiple children in sports. If you want your child to play, they will find a way to include them.” SGJAA is run in partnership with the city of South Gate, but it operates independently. The city provides the facilities where the children play, but the organization uses its own funds to purchase equipment, trophies, jerseys, and anything else needed for the season.

SGJAA is purely recreational and helps the children involved gain confidence in both their athletic and personal lives.

“I’m a perfect example of what a program like this can do for a kid,” said Barron. “You stay out of trouble and play sports. The program is great for all levels too. It’s ok if a kid has never played before. The coaches show the basics and the kids just love it.” More information about SGJAA can be found on their Facebook page or by calling (323) 563-9500.

Community News produces stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected].