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Fastpitch softball fanatic

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POSTED April 24, 2014 12:07 a.m.

This Saturday night the MYSA (Manteca Youth Softball Association) holds their Annual Rib Dinner Fundraiser at the MRPS Hall from 6 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. All you can eat ribs by Fagundes, Raffle, No Host Bar, and Dancing....for tickets: info@mantecayouthsoftball.com

Thinking about fastpitch softball gives me wonderful memories of my childhood. My earliest being a small boy watching my dad play fastpitch at the Sequoia School softball diamond. That’s right, there was a time when men played fastpitch — and Manteca was a competitive hotbed for the sport. I bet few remember that Library Park was the local softball diamond long before the library was built. Manteca Ford was a team that played from the late 60s-mid 70s, led by locals Larry Lusk, Gary Heaton, and Bob and Jim Leatherwood, they were considered a national powerhouse. Rumor has it they moved a pitcher from Florida to Manteca just to play on the team, and he “sold cars” at the dealership for work. In the early 80’s Tubbs and Sons had the hot team in the area. Dean Uecker, Bruce King, Frank Teicheira, Steve Frisk, and notably Pete Duenas led John Tubb’s team to a National Title in 1986. Pete Duenas was inducted into the ASA (American Softball Association) Hall of Fame this last year. In an era before Big League Dreams or even Northgate Park, most teams traveled to Stockton’s Louis Park to play.

My dad’s team was a laundry list of ex-Manteca baseball greats, Vince Cowan, Jackie Lewis, Bruce Barber, and Willie Reeder to name a few. Being their batboy was like touching greatness for this 8 year old. I thought that’s what all good baseball players did after high school because playing fastpitch is a million times cooler than playing alowpitch, not to mention it’s an actual sport.. I’m sure I’ll piss off more than a few with this train of thought— but let’s be honest — slowpitch is a recreational activity.. . not a sport! Sorry to the dude with the sweet matching hat and travel bag heading to BLD on Tuesday nights, slowpitch is not a sport. Four outfielders, a lobbed pitch, and a third baseman setting up camp with his heels on the left field grass, does not constitute anything resembling the sport of baseball — which is what fastpitch is on a smaller diamond. Bunting, stealing, an ace pitcher, and a third baseman up so close to the batter, they can read the writing on the bat — that’s fastpitch.

It was early 80’s when my younger sister Andrea started playing fastpitch. Which to an 11 year old sports chauvinist was mind blowing. How was a girl gonna play this sacred sport that my heroes played?.. In truth I was a little jealous, and in hindsight I was a lot wrong. I hated going to my sister’s games, just as any teenager would, but along the way something happened. She got good. Her teams got good. Soon she was 11 and playing on traveling squads. Many of the girls my age played on corresponding teams at the same out of town tournaments. This meant I could go to my sister’s tourney and watch the likes of Kristy “Yogi” Tribuzio, Gina Miranda, or Randi Sousa playing on a different diamond— not a bad deal for a 14-year-old boy who had a crush on all three at one time or another. All the while I began to notice something, the games were exciting and highly competitive to the point that I wanted to go just to watch the softball. Now I was really jealous. My dad started coaching my sister and they were now able to swap fastpitch strategies, and even worse, stories! Mind you, my dad is still playing fastpitch, and I’m still the lowly 14-year-old batboy. I wanted to play fastpitch so bad I could taste it.

It was my sophomore year of high school that I finally got my chance. My dad signed off on me playing on his fastpitch team even though I wasn’t the required 18. I was playing baseball for Manteca High at the time, and was positive that the school administration nor the Valley Oak League would be thrilled at the prospect of me playing baseball and adult fastpitch simultaneously. Good thing my coach was Todd Vick. He just so happened to play on the very same team as my dad, and usually ended up being my ride to Louis Park on a “Double-Header Wednesday”... (I hope my admission of this doesn’t retroactively remove our second place finish in league that year) So there I was in front of dad, coach, and assorted heroes for my first game and between you, me, and the four strikeouts I had, one thing was apparent, fastpitch softball had just kicked my butt but that was against full grown men, and this sports chauvinist knew one thing — I’d hammer a female pitcher! Oh how I was wrong, a lesson I’d really learn a month later on the MHS girls softball diamond..

Tisha Herzfeld was the star pitcher at MHS. She was also my high school crush. I let it be known that I’m now also a fastpitch player, and that I’ll take her weak rise ball out of the yard Anytime. Word got around quick. The coaches were all too willing to let me make an ass of myself. There we were, the entire sophomore baseball team heading to the varsity softball diamond to watch the showdown Herzfeld-Teicheira 1989. I stepped into the batter’s box as the entire varsity girls’ squad watched. My plan was to hit a home run, and as she started to cry, I’d console her into becoming my girlfriend. I let the first pitch go by to see what she had — STRIKE ONE!. I’d like to note for the record that she was taking signs from her pitching coach Mike Thill, a man who had cut my hair at The Strop Shop since Iwas a boy, and also played fastpitch with my dad, where was his loyalty?! (Obviously with his prize pupil) Pitch 2 I fisted a slow dribbler up the first base line. (I contend to this day that I would have legged it out for a single in a real game, she contends “Have you ever seen yourself run?!”)… STRIKE 2!! Time to protect. I believe I fouled off the next three pitches, and then it happened. I had her perfectly timed, and was ready to jump on the next pitch when a lesson in humility was taught to me in the form of a nasty change-up. Let me put this strikeout in perspective: If she threw the pitch tomorrow, I swung yesterday. It was ugly as ugly gets.. STRIKE THREE! and her looking pretty on the mound did nothing to make me feel better, as everyone laughed with pleasure. Even my team was thrilled it seemed.

Fast Forward 22 years.

Tisha and her fellow Class of 90s are enjoying a post 20-year reunion cocktail at The Pub. A male with a few pops in him starts to give lip service (a Nascimento that refused an interview), “Herzfeld wasn’t that great a pitcher...there were better”. She caught wind and said “put-up or shut-up”. The specific song and dance leading up to what happened next are a bit muddled by booze and hyperbole. A $100 bet was made that she couldn’t strike a tree across the street with the cue ball off the pool table..How was this fair? That’s North Main Street, and four lanes not to mention it was a freshly planted sidewalk tree that was her target, roughly 8 inches in diameter. She took the cue ball in hand, and toed the door jam like the rubber on the mound. Yeah Folks, she threw from the doorway, adding another 10 feet to the pitch and with 30 people standing outside, she unleashed underhand gas. THWACK!! .She squared up the trunk of the tree dead center and knee high! I swear this story to be true on Walker Vick’s good name. Tisha and her old softball cronies laughed and hugged, a legend is born — a scene reminiscent of a varsity softball diamond some 22 years ago.

I’ve gone a long way, and as usual have taken a dive into Lake Chris to illustrate one point: Fastpitch softball is a wonderful sport with strong roots in our town. This weekend’s MYSA fundraiser goes a long way towards helping many young girls become part of a something they will carry throughout their lives. I see the way my sister, or Tisha interact with their former teammates. Many of which played together for upwards of eight to10 years. Their bonds are tight and everlasting. Like my good friend Mark Condit always says “Camaraderie is key.” Amd girls that play fastpitch softball have it in spades.

My sister Andrea is coaching the freshman girls softball team at MHS this season. She said she spotted Tisha in the stands at a game the other day. When asked by my sister if she was there to watch a family member or friend, she replied “Nope...just felt like watching some softball.”

That is Manteca to a T!



• It has been 25 years since that fateful strikeout in 89’.(one of many “strikeouts” she’s dealt me over the years) I hereby challenge Tisha Herzfeld to one last battle. At high noon during the Manteca Fourth of July parade, I will meet you in the middle of the street at Main and Yosemite. We will settle this once and for all. If you strike me out, I will leave town never to return. When I hit a home run, you will finally take me on a date to Baskin-Robbins. It’s something long overdue.

And as always “It’s not Where ya do, it’s What ya do.”



To respond to the general nonsense that is Manteca to a T, please contact cateicheira@hotmail.com

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