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062515Firework Stand 01.jpg

Gustavo Lopez staples a new TNT Fireworks poster to the outside of a fireworks stand on South Broadway on June 25, 2015. Safe & Sane fireworks go on sale on Wednesday, June 28.

Times File Photo

The fireworks booths are up.

I noticed it on my way into the office Thursday.

There’s no one in them yet.

There won’t be anyone selling Safe & Sane fireworks in any of the booths until next Wednesday, June 28.

Santa Maria city rules allow Safe & Sane fireworks to be sold for seven days – from June 28 up to and including July 4.

But the booths are there now.

You might see a handful of people out there decorating their booths but the volunteers won’t actually be able to pick up their merchandise until the morning of the 28th.

So why is this a sports story?

It isn’t except …

Johna Wilson is TNT Fireworks main woman on the Central Coast which, along with Phantom, supplies all the fireworks that you can buy to create your own fireworks show.

Wilson is based in Bakersfield and oversees all the operations here on the Central Coast – in Santa Maria, Arroyo Grande, Templeton and now Lompoc.

I’ve known her for years.

My wife Marily and I worked at, and for a few years managed, the Fraternal Order of Eagles fireworks booth and over those years Marily and I got to know Johna fairly well.

She used to bring her teenage son along once in a while and we got to meet him.

Nice kid.

He played baseball for Buchanan High in Clovis.

I’m the Sports Editor and he was a baseball player so we had sports in common.

But her son hasn’t been able to come out to help his mom for the last few years.

You see, Johna’s son is Justin Wilson.

These days, Justin is the closer for the Detroit Tigers.

After high school, Justin went to college and played baseball for Fresno State – at the same time Assistant Sports Editor Joe Bailey and sports writer Lorenzo J. Reyna were Bulldogs.

Justin was on the mound, the starting and winning pitcher for Fresno State in the championship game at the 2008 College World Series.

That was his junior year.

He was then drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates and was brought up to the big club during the 2012 season.

My old high school had a pirate as a mascot, we’re the Hull High Pirates, so I love all things pirate and rooted for him to do well.

He was an effective left-handed middle reliever.

In 2015, Justin was traded to the dreaded Yankees and in 2016 he was traded again to Detroit.

Just as I did for Righetti High’s Matt Sauer, who was just drafted by the Yankees, I got over my anti-Yankee prejudice to root for Justin.

And in the mid-1970s, I worked at the NBA affiliate in Detroit, loved the city and continued to root for Justin.

This year, he was moved from middle relief to the closer’s role.

He’s having another good season although rumors are swirling that he may get traded again.

So he’s busy elsewhere and won’t be helping his mom during her frenzied week in Santa Maria.

His Tigers will be hosting Cabrillo grad Danny Duffy’s Royals, followed by Cleveland and San Francisco during fireworks week.

Here’s hoping he continues to do well.

Now back to the fireworks.

The booths are all run by volunteers for local non-profits.

Organizations like the Eagles.

The Eagles use their profits to benefit some local youth sports teams, mostly softball teams and programs, as well as putting money into a fund to help local cancer and heart patients pay their medical bills.

There are church groups, school groups and more – all using their profits for the benefit of our community.

Remember, these groups sell government approved Safe & Sane fireworks.

We’d regularly get people coming up to see (1) if they could buy illegal fireworks or (2) if we wanted to buy them.

We didn’t.

Besides serious criminal penalties for selling illegal fireworks, the organizations stand to lose their license to sell the Safe & Sane kind and, in many cases, it is the organization’s largest annual fundraiser.

So as you’re out there buying your safe & Sane fireworks, keep in mind that it helps the community.

And remember, TNT has a major league connection to the Central Coast.

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Senior Sports Reporter