Open winners with (left to right): Randy Bloomer, Cory Wiese, host James Pickens, Jr., Nano Garza, Tanner Baldwin and Neal Williams. – Sal Owen Photography
By Lane Karney
Special To Ropers Sports News
CLOVIS, Calif. – The James Pickens Jr. Foundation Charity Roping has spent the past 10 years becoming a popular part of the California spring run of rodeos. In recent times, it’s joined forces with the Clovis Rodeo, so that team ropers don’t have to travel to take part and win good money between rodeo runs. Tanner Baldwin and Nano Garza get that after getting the Pickens Roping W this year. They roped five steers in 38.31 seconds at this year’s April 23 roping, and won $6,175 a man and Coats Saddles.
“Nano did an amazing job for me,” said Baldwin, 24, who with Garza was second callback behind the high-call team of Cody Snow and Cesar de la Cruz. “That last shot of Nano’s in the short round was so aggressive. I couldn’t believe he threw that fast, but it was awesome.”
“Jackpots like this one are the highlight of the California rodeo season,” said Garza, 39, who’s roping with Brooks Dahozy at the rodeos, and splits his time between Las Cruces, New Mexico and Cave Creek, Arizona. “I saw Jim over there at the Cervi. I told him I was going to come out here and win this. Surprisingly, I did. This roping always has a positive vibe. Good people, good sponsors, and it’s for a great cause. Jim reaches out to so many people in his community, and it’s awesome what his charity stands for. It’s the same mission I have in my life—to help people and be the best person I can be.”
The charity of choice on this one is the James Pickens Jr. Foundation, which is based on the mission statement of “bringing increased value to the lives of people of this generation and the generations that follow. The organization seeks, selects, supports and/or partners with individuals and community groups that work tirelessly to revitalize local communities. “Grey’s Anatomy” star Pick’s motivation for producing an open roping?
“I do it because of my passion for team roping, and also for kids and trying to recognize and bring attention to where kids are in our society today, where we should elevate them to and how we should celebrate them and recognize their value,” said Pickens, who ropes every chance he gets when he’s not on set. “To celebrate our young people and couple that with my passion for the Western lifestyle is reason enough to do it. I thought acting was hard, but it’s nothing compared to what a professional cowboy’s life is like.”
The communities he helps sure appreciate all he does, and the cowboys who compete in this roping are grateful, too. Baldwin, who lives in Vail, Arizona, made the Pickens short round with all three of his partners—Garza, de la Cruz (they were 10th high call) and Brandon Bates (they came back 14th). Cody Cowden’s his rodeo partner right now.
“I’m going to go with Cody to Reno, the BFI and over the Fourth, and just see how we do,” said Baldwin, who rode Brian Theill’s 9-year-old yellow head horse, Gator. Theill is originally from California, but now lives in Scottsdale. “If we do good, we’ll keep going. If not, we’ll go home.”
Strong horsepower came in handy at this one.
“It was a lot different than most ropings you go to these days,” said Baldwin, who won a pretty grand total of $8,285, including a fourth-place check with de la Cruz. “Big arena and big, fresh steers. It was old school. You had to use your horse.
“They’ve headed tons of steers on him, but this was just Gator’s second jackpot. I’ve won both jackpots I’ve taken him to. Now I’m going to finish off the year and rodeo on him.”
The steers were, in fact, used at the John W. Jones Memorial Steer Wrestling Jackpot in Clovis the day before the roping. They were fresh, and averaged 550 pounds, which kept it interesting in both events.
“These steers had never been team roped before today, so they were hard to handle,” Baldwin said. “This horse I rode is still a little green, and I think that was actually better on these cattle.
“I figured if I could get out of the barrier and handle every steer, I’d do good. If you broke the barrier or your head horse got strong it would take you out. That was why I rode this horse. I knew I could get out every time on him and these steers would take it good. He’s not too strong or aggressive to the saddle horn, so I knew he’d give me a chance of controlling these big, fresh steers and giving my partners good looks.”
Garza rode Big Worm, a 12-year-old dun horse he bought last spring from Will Cowden, who’s Cody’s son.
“I really liked these steers,” Nano noted. “I thought it was fair for everybody. You had to just run ’em down and catch ’em, and it wasn’t a drawing contest. It was about using your horse and going out there and catching. Guys weren’t getting ahead by just outdrawing everybody else.”
As for his partner in the Pickens winner’s circle, “Tanner was phenomenal,” Garza said. “He scored great, and kept everything lined out to a T. He used his horse, never changed his approach and gave every partner the same go. Three callbacks in the short round and how he did showed he was one of the better headers here today.”
Baldwin sees the spring ropings as a bonus to the spring run of rodeos on the West Coast.
“Us cowboys don’t have that many chances to win this much money throughout the year,” Tanner said. “So every chance we do is outstanding. This is going to help me keep going and pay my fees at the Feist and stuff like that. It’s a good time of year to win this kind of money.
“I would like to thank Jim and everybody who makes this roping happen. I appreciate all that he and his crew do to give us this opportunity. This is an unbelievable amount of money to win on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon in sunny California. What a great day.”
Garza’s a guy of few words, but the grin on his face at roping’s end spoke for itself.
“I’m blessed to be here, and actions speak louder than words,” Nano said of the roping that was again broadcast live on the Wrangler Network. “So I’ll just say thank you to Jim and his foundation for putting on a great roping.”
Results are as follows:
Open: 79 teams
1st go: 1. Coleman Proctor and Kyle Lockett, 7.04, $2,000. 2. Aaron Tsinigine and Junior Nogueira, 7.12, $1,400.
Short go: 1. Kolton Schmidt and Hunter Koch, 6.28, $700.
Average: 1. Tanner Baldwin and Nano Garza, 38.31, $6,175. 2. Brooks Dahozy and Ranger Hill, 39.13, $5,140. 3. Kolton Schmidt and Hunter Koch, 40.05, $4,110. 4. Kaleb Driggers and Jade Corkill, 44.74, $3,050. 5. Tanner Baldwin and Cesar DeLaCruz, 45.47, $2,110.
Pro-Am (Am Headers, Pro Heelers): 37 teams
1st go: 1. Chris Phillips, $444, and Jonathan Torres, $296, 6.76.
2nd go: 1. Karen Dias, $444, and Jade Corkill, $296, 7.21.
Average: 1. Chris Phillips, $1,562, and Jonathan Torres, $1,040, 22.39. 2. Tyson Porter, $1,172, and Logan Medlin, $782, 23.27. 3. Randal Sheppard, $878, and Cole Davison, $545, 24.09.
Pro-Am (Pro Headers, Am Heelers): 13 teams
1st go: 1. Russell Cardoza, $104, and Cody Cabral, $156, 6.06.
2nd go: 1. Russell Cardoza, $104, and Cody Cabral, $156, 7.10.
Average: 1. Joshua Torres, $500, and Ron Rogers, $750, 23.80. 2. Jade Stoddard, $330, and Carl Wilken, $500, 24.72.
In Garza’s eyes, jackpots like the Pickens are a highlight of the spring rodeo run in California. – Sal Owen Photography
James Pickens, Jr. and Joe Martin with kids dummy roping winners (l to r): Levi Andrew, John McCarthy and Jaxson Velasquez. – Sal Owen Photography
Lane Karney, center, has announced the Pickens roping all 10 years. Pickens, Karney and Bob Feist also have handled the Wrangler Network commentary the past few years.