There are few events that feel as old-school San Jose as the Santa Clara County Hot Stove Banquet.

The 29th annual celebration of local baseball, held Tuesday at the San Jose Elks Club, is like a neighborhood block party and Little League reunion rolled into one. It says something about the dinner's resonance in the valley and the hard work of the Hot Stove Committee that San Francisco Giants broadcaster Ted Robinson serves as emcee and major league players with local roots take pride in receiving their awards.

Looking around the clubhouse on Alma Avenue, you see a lot of fathers and brothers, as well as moms, sisters and wives. It's a very family-oriented event. And in this case, some of the families grew up together on the baseball field.

Kevin Frandsen, the Bellarmine College Prep and San Jose State grad now playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, was this year's Major League Player of the Year. There were 20 other honorees, ranging from the Blossom Valley Mustang Little League and the Mercury News sportswriter Glenn Reeves to Palo Alto native Sandy Wihtol, who spent nine years pitching in the major leagues and 16 as the coach of Los Altos High School.

Sam Piraro, who coached San Jose State for 25 years before he retired last summer, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Over the years, Piraro has seen many of his players -- including Frandsen -- honored at the banquet, so he's well aware of its significance.


Advertisement

"Obviously I'm honored to receive the award, but most important, I get an opportunity to thank the people who helped me along the way throughout my career," he said. This is their award, too."

BOOK REPORT: The community's annual conversation about this year's two books of the Silicon Valley Reads selections begins Wednesday with a kickoff event at the Campbell Heritage Theater.

"Invisible Wounds of War" is the theme of the 2013 books. My Mercury News colleague Mike Cassidy will have an onstage conversation with Brian Castner, author of "The Long Walk," and Sue Diaz, author of "Minefields of the Heart," at the event, which begins at 7:30 p.m. The event is free, and seating is on a first-come basis.

If you haven't finished (or started) the books yet, you've got some time. There are more than 120 events taking place throughout Santa Clara County over the next two-plus months (The full schedule is available at www.siliconvalleyreads.org). Many of the events involve the authors, including an event Feb. 2 at the Moffett Field Historical Society Museum that'll focus on the Bay Area's role in U.S. military history. That event's limited to 200 people and reservations are required, so email svreads@aol.com to save a spot.

CAGED ROMANCE?: I've heard of some wild Valentine's Day dates, but San Jose's Happy Hollow Park & Zoo might take the cake with its Jungle Love dinner on Feb. 14. The Happy Hollow Foundation is inviting couples for a five-course progressive dinner held in tents at the zoo, and between the starters and dessert you'll also get to meet some of the zoo's exotic animals and learn about their mating habits. If that doesn't get you in the mood, I'm not sure what will.

Tickets are $150 a couple (over 21 only) but the menu prepared by Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme looks fantastic. Check it out and get more information at www.hhpz.org.

NEXT CHAPTER: San Mateo playwright Lauren Mayer's latest work is a fun musical that continues the story of some favorite fairy-tale characters and their famous foes. Pied Piper Players will present the show, "Never After," at Aragon High School's new theater from Thursday through Sunday.

The show's music takes its cue from Motown, rock and 1980s pop. And audience members should expect to get involved, as actors will be breaking the "fourth wall" now and engage them with questions and conversation. Go to www.piedpiperplayers.org for ticket information and showtimes.

Contact Sal Pizarro at spizarro@mercurynews.com or 408-627-0940. Follow him at Facebook.com/mercurynews.aroundtown and Twitter.com/spizarro.