Opening day for Little League baseball is typically a joyous time for antsy youngsters and their families, but a somewhat somber cloud hung over Eastridge Little League's first day of competitive action.
As a new season began Saturday, community members in San Jose paid special tribute to Frank Navarro, a beloved Little League president and coach who was fatally stabbed at a downtown nightclub in late February.
Players lined up and placed flowers on a sign for their late leader, who many say was nothing but a positive influence.
"He loved baseball," Navarro's father said. "He just loved teaching kids. He mentored the kids. Everything was about the children. He was excited. He was telling me, 'Dad, I can't wait for this year to start.'"
Even San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo chimed in to thank Navarro for his dedication to the up-and-coming leaders of the community.
"There's really no better way to honor coach Frank and his legacy than to kick off a new season," Liccardo said. "We know what coach Frank meant to hundreds of kids. He know that his legacy lives on. It's important for us to carry on that legacy."
That legacy has been permanently etched into the Eastridge Little League complex. A sign with one of Navarro's famous phrases is now housed in the outfield. That saying reads: "Everyday we work to be better. Better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we are today."
The coach has also received high praise from parents and athletes for putting the interests of the youngsters before his own. Many have said Navarro drove children to practice, helped them with their schoolwork and held them accountable for their decisions, both on and off the field. He was also applauded for maintaining the baseball facilities.
Navarro's father, who has remained quiet since the death, yearns for the day when he will reunite with his son.
"We'll see each other one day," he said. "We'll all look down together and just say, 'Eastridge strong. Eastridge strong.'"
Navarro was working at the Tres Gringos Cabo Cantina on Feb. 26 when he was stabbed to death. The District Attorney's office said six suspects were beating up a bouncer at the night club for confiscating an ID. That's when Navarro, who was head of security at the club, rushed to help his colleague before being stabbed.