By Dan Harrington
City College students Adrian Gomez, Stephen Orquiza, Dorian Rosales and instructor Nick Roth- man often act as the pit crew and machine shop of an elite stunt racer.
That is because when San Fran- cisco Giants’ mascot Lou Seal is in motion entertaining the crowd at AT&T Park something is likely to get broken.
City College’s most knowledge- able and enthusiastic mechanics stand ready at 1400 Evans Avenue to fix and improve the scooters used by the portly yet swift fan favorite.
The four, with cameos from other students in the City College Automotive Technology Depart- ment, ended up creating their own high performance vehicle used in the reigning World Series champi- ons’ playoff run.
It all started when Rothman did drop off and repair work for a com- pany that made electric scooters. The company folded and the Giants kept asking Rothman where Lou Seal could get his next ride.
“I realized they needed some- thing specific, more durable and more powerful than off-the-shelf scooters,” Rothman said.
He also had the presence of mind and confidence to involve his students at City College.
“There is a lot of wiring involved in building a scooter and all three got placed in industry jobs with specialization in auto electrical,” Rothman said. Gomez and Orquiza have full duties as fleet technicians with City Car Share and Rosales has earned a position at Pat’s Garage.
“I was looking for enthusiasm and work ethic and they were at the advanced level,” Rothman said in forming his squad of what baseball folks call five-tool players, those who have the potential to be superior among all players.
The three impactful students supplied various motivations.
The husky Gomez wanted to prove to the doubters that he could be a great mechanic, just as he had shown he could throw a baseball with authority or drum the chimbao in his native Mexico and his adopted City by the Bay.
Rosales remembered being with his father in a stalled car when he was a youngster. The two of them figured out how to get the car start- ed, and he vowed he would learn everything he could to never be in jeopardy again.
“My ultimate goal right now is to become an F-1 mechanic,” said Orquiza, 22. The Visitacion Valley resident, who grew up in the Philippines dreaming of being an international auto racer, now has some connections at Sonoma Raceway in addition to his local work commitments.
“When the Lou Seal proj- ect was announced, my eyes opened up wide,” Orquiza said.
“I joined the auto program in 2012 and it has been quite an adventure,” said Bayview district resident Rosales. Now 22 years old, Rosales picked up a baseball in 2006 upon his arrival from Guatemala, a bit earlier than the mechanic’s wrench.
Now they go hand-in-hand.
“Just being able to help fix the mascot’s scooter was an extraordi- nary experience because I am a huge fan of the Giants,” Rosales said. “And as apprentice mechanics it helps us gain experience to become master mechanics.”
“It seems amazing how when I was little and I used to love the sport, then got the chance to come over to San Francisco and see the Giants play for the first time in 2005,” Gomez said. “Now I had the chance to be part of helping my favorite team and the fans.”
The scooter support staff cele- brates Lou Seal’s antics that include wheelies, fast turns and jumps as much or more than any fan at the park.
“He’s pushing the limits of the machine,” Orquiza said. “That gets us more experience to build an even better scooter to deal with his extreme showcasing.”
During the late season, players on the Giants congratulated Lou Seal on saving one perilous between-innings ride where it seemed he lost control
going over a berm on the warning track, and encouraged a repeat per- formance at the next game.
“The scooter broke on touch- down,” Rothman said.
The student team was ready for the call to the major league fix-it game. The team put in three to four extra hours a week for over a month, all volunteer, while the Giants made due with the other vehicles.
“Coach” Rothman developed a full slate of lineup changes for Lou Seal’s mobile needs at the outset, and the job was complete by the deadline – ready for the Giants latest World Series win.
“We welded in I-beams and replaced plastic parts with metal parts – it’s steel reinforced,” Roth- man said. “We switched to heavy duty tires, upgraded wiring, motors. The finished product has four to five times the power output of an off-the-shelf scooter.”
“We’re running three 12-Volts, putting out a horse-and-a-half,” Gomez said in trade lingo.
“You can easily count the number of original parts by the time we were done, and there weren’t that many (left),” Rothman said. “The standing product can do a
standing wheel- ie and smoke the back tire.”
UCSF donated some special electron- ic components used in the upgrades and new edition to the fleet. Mate- rials that made up the bulk of
the new ride were crafted from the welding and motorcycle departments’ supply on the Evans campus.
“As for Lou Seal, ever in character, he doesn’t talk much to reporters – or anyone for that matter. He still made time for a brief off-season interview.
When asked how he liked the presence of college students on the scooter team, and the continued alliance between the Giants and City College, the mascot gave a salute and two thumbs up. Regarding the quality of work on the scooter fleet by Rothman’s crew, Lou put a number one forefinger high over his Giants’ ball cap as he repeatedly nodded.
The City College crew is willing to help the Giants, the only major professional sports team now in San Francisco. They might consider a motored two-wheeler for old Can- dlestick Park “anti-mascot” Crazy Crab – maybe a chopper instead of cioppino – but no associations with other team mascots.
“We don’t want to be spread too thin,” Rothman said. “Even the best scooters might last two to three seasons, and they get so trashed that you have to start from scratch.”
“Lou Seal gives us plenty of spe- cial volunteer projects,” Rothman said.
Tenderloin resident Gomez, 24, is looking forward to returning for instruction on hybrid and full elec- tric vehicles. Speaking of hybrids, he’s loved the combination of his hometown team and scooter science.
“I know Hunter Pence likes scooters, too,” Gomez said, as he and others witnessed on television when the Giants’ outfielder inadvertently buzzed a news reporter after a playoff game. “Maybe he could come down Third Street and see if he wants us to work with him on his scooter.”
“All the Giants are welcome here,” Rosales said. He will be ready for them.
“I’m planning on taking engine performance, brakes and suspension and the hybrid class, and the ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification,” Rosales said.
Returning students in the automotive and motorcycle tech- nology program look forward to more handy work next season on Lou Seal’s fleet.
The instructors and alumni of the program welcome new students eager to learn and make a commit- ment to the coursework and special projects, whether or not they like the Giants.
It’s hard not to like Lou Seal, though, especially at 20 to 30 miles per hour whizzing by the box seats on a high performance, City Col- lege-crafted machine.