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SPORTS TALK : Inner City Games to Begin Sunday at Hollenbeck Center, Other Sites


Starting Sunday and running through Aug. 4, a new kind of game comes to town when the Inner City Games get under way with athletic competition at several locations throughout Los Angeles.

More than 5,000 finalists, from 9 to 18, will participate in baseball, basketball, boxing, football, gymnastics, soccer, softball and other sports at the Hollenbeck Youth Center, the Los Angeles Police Academy, Cal State Los Angeles and various city parks.

The finalists were selected from 30,000 participants who competed in preliminary events leading up to the games. The opening ceremonies are scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at the track stadium at Cal State L.A. and will be led by bodybuilder-turned-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, executive commissioner of the games.

Admission is free for the opening ceremonies and all events.

Also scheduled for Sunday is a 5K run open to all ages and a one-mile Munchkin run for children 9 or younger. They will be held on streets in the Boyle Heights area. Registration for the runs will be open until race day.

Besides the sporting events, the games will feature a baseball card show hosted by Dodger pitcher Jim Gott on Saturday and Sunday at Cal State L.A. Anti-drug and anti-gang motivational speeches by members of the President's Council on Physical Fitness will be presented at selected schools during the week.

Daniel L. Hernandez, executive director of the Hollenbeck Youth Center, said the games are part of Hollenbeck's program to counteract the influences of drugs, crime, gangs and illiteracy among today's youth.

"The games will provide a visible option for Los Angeles youth and young adults with the positive alternatives of team cooperation and the individual or team pursuit of excellence in an environment of fair competition and intergroup understanding," Hernandez said.

Hernandez said that one goal is to get youngsters from the Eastside's Aliso Village, Ramona Gardens, Casa Maravilla, Rose Hills Courts and Estrada Courts housing projects involved in the activities.

The Hollenbeck Youth Center serves about 6,000 youths. Its board of directors consists of the Police Business Council, which includes Los Angeles Police Department and civilian members. The center provides league competition and instruction in many sports, in addition to delinquency-prevention programs.

Among those who took advantage of the programs offered at the center was Paul Gonzales, the 1984 Olympic boxing champion and one of the top-ranked bantamweights in the professional ranks. Gonzales will serve as the commissioner of boxing at the games.

"It's going to be a great program," said Gonzales. "It's going to be phenomenal for the kids because it lets them know that people do care."

For additional information, contact the Hollenbeck Youth Center at (213) 263-4989.

Two members of the Pepperdine University baseball team, Steve Rodriguez and Dan Melendez, are on the 25-man squad that will represent the United States at the Pan American Games in August in Cuba.

Rodriguez, a sophomore second baseman from Las Vegas, led Pepperdine in batting this season with a .419 average and in home runs with seven. He also knocked in 49 runs and established a team single-season record for hits with 104. He was chosen a first-team all-American by Baseball America magazine.

Melendez, 20, is a sophomore first baseman who prepped at St. Bernard High in Playa del Rey. He led the team in runs batted in with 60 and was second in batting with a .354 average. His .996 fielding percentage was tops on the team for players with 30 or more chances.

Melendez will also play with the West team against the East in the 1991 International Baseball Assn. all-star game on Aug. 24 at Dodger Stadium.

The West squad features 22 players from the Americas, including Cubans Orestes Kindelan, Antonio Pacheco and Omar Linares, three of the top amateur players in the world. Players from the rest of the world will be on the East team.

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