By Rick Assad
Memorial Field was filled with emotion Friday night before Burroughs High and Pasadena tangled in a Pacific League football game.
With several hundred fans in the stands watching and dozens of family, friends and former football teammates on the track, Cerain Baker, who played on the varsity for two years was honored.
The touching, 20-minute ceremony was hosted by former Burroughs booster president Jeff Sporkin.
Baker, along with two others were killed in an automobile accident this past August.
Sporkin, who spoke from the heart and at times had to wipe tears from his eyes, was Baker’s Vikings coach for six years.
Sporkin talked about the young man’s commitment, even at a young age to football and how he treated others.
Only 21 when he was struck down, Baker, a wide receiver who in a game versus Glendale in 2017 had 11 receptions, which is the third most in school history and 233 yards, which is second best, was remembered for not only his on the field exploits, but the generosity he showed others.
Cerain’s father, Tony, an actor and comedian, spoke about his oldest child.
“This really meant a lot. I knew that he made a mark on the community and his friends and his football teammates and being homecoming king. We called him the Mayor of Burbank because he was so loved and popular,” he said. “To us, that’s our boy. That’s our baby. Our first born. Of course, he’s going to be special to us, his parents. Just the fact that he made a connection with so many different people, it means a lot.”
Baker continued: “He didn’t phone it in. He went all in. He was emotional and passionate about winning. He was a good teammate to have and a brother as well,” he said. “He really cheered you on. There was no negative energy.”
Mike Reily was Baker’s varsity coach and talked about what he meant to the football program and what he meant as a person.
“Cerain was a good athlete, but an even better human being,” he said. “He was a loyal friend to his peers. His laugh was contagious and his smile would light up a room.”
Reily said that his personality made everyone feel at ease.
“It was always hard to be in a bad mood when near Cerain, as his zest for life seemed to spread to those around him,” he said. “He was fun to coach, a joy to be around and he will be missed.”
Keith Recchia is the linebackers and special teams coach, and knew Baker, who inspired his teammates.
“Cerain was one of those kids that always made coaches laugh, but he also showed it on the field with his effort and work ethic,” he offered. “I’ve been here 15 years and he’s one of my all-time favorite kids to coach.”
Recchia went on: “His commitment to the program. Him always wanting to win. His willingness to do anything for us as coaches,” he said. “We asked him to do it and he said, “Coach, I’ll do it. No problem.” My last year as JV [junior varsity] coach, he was on my team and that next year he went up to varsity. So I was lucky enough to coach him for three years. He left that personal impression on me. He will always be one of those kids I’ll always remember. I will always remember the things he did even in the down times. He’s going to be missed.”
Jose Calzadilla is the offensive and defensive line coach and expressed what Baker meant to those he met.
“He was great. Easy to coach. Huge smile. Light up a room when he walked into it,” he noted. “Super friendly. Great with the lower-level guys. Positive. Uplifting. Helped them when he could. He was an absolute joy to have. Loved coaching him. Played hard all the time. He played hurt.”
Losing your life at such a tender age makes it even more difficult to deal with.
“This was tragic. Just a waste. He had a tremendous future. And was such a good kid,” Calzadilla said. “It’s just ridiculous, such a silly thing as street racing took his life.”