Jeff Praught | Dugout Chatter
Athlete injury updates
Over the last two years, two very serious injuries have sidelined members of our LGBT sports community, but each athlete has made amazing progress in their perspective recoveries.
At the Sin City Shootout in Las Vegas this past January, local softball player Mike Petracca suffered a severe brain injury after an unthinkably fluke accident. He was walking between fields on a concrete pathway when he was struck by a bat that had flown out of the hands of a batter at one of the nearby fields. His original prognosis after the Jan. 17 injury was that he may never regain normal function of his right hand, the right side of his face, or his ability to speak.
Friends and softball members from around the country rallied for Mike’s cause, raising over $50,000 to aid his uncertain rehabilitation costs. After spending a week in a Las Vegas hospital both in intensive care and then in a private room, Petracca was transported back to San Diego for another week of rehabilitation before being sent home.
Fast forward to March 1, and I am ecstatic to report that Petracca was not only able to make his first public appearance in Hillcrest since the accident, but that he has regained a significant portion of his speaking ability. Though his speech is somewhat slowed and continues to require significant speech therapy, he moves around normally, has regained most functions, and has been cleared to resume exercise. His personal goal is to return to the softball field by May with his Firestorm team.
Having a brain that is only 28 years old certainly helped Petracca, as it healed nicely when the consequences of the wayward bat could have been so much worse. His hard work and positive attitude have been an inspiration to so many friends in America’s Finest City Softball League (AFCSL).
David “Mona” Valenzuela
Back in January of 2013, Mona was facing a potentially life-threatening situation. An untreated infection of his toe had spread into his bones, requiring amputation of the toe. When pain persisted, Valenzuela, who is also diabetic, had to have his leg amputated just below the knee in order to stop the spread of the potentially deadly infection.
Valenzuela, who is well-known throughout the local sports community for having played in
softball, flag football, and basketball, was facing an uncertain recovery that affected not only his ability to play sports, but also his means of making a living. Mona has been a server at various restaurants for years, and losing his leg proved to be a stunning setback.
Now two years later, Mona has made a remarkable adjustment to his new life as a disabled person. Instead of letting a prosthetic leg give him grief, Mona has made the best of it by adapting and always keeping a humorous attitude. Not only has he returned to work — he is a server at Don Chido in the Gaslamp Quarter, Downtown — but he also returned to the softball diamond in 2014 with his Loft B team. On the mound, it looked like Mona did not miss a beat, and he was actually able to reach base at a better clip in 2014 than he did in 2012.
Valenzuela returned to the basketball court during SD Hoops’ 2014-2015 regular season, albeit in a limited capacity. He serves as coach for the No. 2-ranked Urban MO’s team that is fighting for a title in this year’s playoffs. He recorded two points and grabbed a rebound in the team’s semifinal playoff victory over Baja Betty’s on Feb. 25.
Congratulations to Mike and Mona on their amazing comebacks, and of course, continued good health in the future.
San Diego Wrestling Club
The San Diego Wrestling Club (SDWC), the only local wrestling club catering to the LGBT community, is approaching its 17th birthday. Founded on April 18, 1998 by Russ Connelly and Dennis Mori, this club offers people of any skill level the opportunity to learn the basics of wrestling. SDWC is a charter member of USA Wrestling, the national governing body for amateur wrestling in the United States.
The club invites those interested in learning freestyle wrestling to attend practices on Thursdays from 7 – 9:30 p.m. and Sundays from 4 – 7 p.m. at The San Diego LGBT Center. Bring your workout gear and be ready for a good workout as you hit the mat. The Center is located at 3909 Centre St., just off University Avenue on the eastern edge of Hillcrest.
The SDWC and its talented coaching staff focuses on the adult wrestler and offers a place for all those interested in wrestling, regardless of age, weight, gender or orientation. The club is especially interested in welcoming beginners to wrestling. The club also participates in tournaments and competitions including its own Bulldogs Wrestling Tournament, hosted here in San Diego every February. Wrestlers from SDWC have participated in several Gay Games, including last year in Cleveland.
Membership to SDWS is just $45 per season, which runs Sept. 1 – Aug. 31. Active duty and college students receive a $10 discount. The cost to attend practice at The Center is $5 per person. Active members with a USAW card ($50 per year) receive full mat privileges, a bi-monthly subscription to USA Wrestler magazine, and secondary insurance.
Visit sdwrestling.org for more information about the San Diego Wrestling Club.
March 7-8 — the big weekend
Two of San Diego’s most popular sports leagues kick off their seasons this weekend. The San Diego American Flag Football League (SDAFFL) boasts 16 teams. SDAFFL opens its season Saturday with games at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and noon at Doyle Park near University Town Center.
America’s Finest City Softball League (AFCSL) opens its softball season on Sunday, with games in Poway and Santee beginning at 8 a.m. and running until 3 p.m. The women’s division will play in Santee with a handful of teams from the Open Division.
—Jeff Praught is actively involved in the LGBT sports community, having participated in softball, basketball, football and pool as a player, serving on AFCSL’s board, and currently serving as the commissioner of SD Hoops. He can be reached at email@example.com.