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Weatherford earns softball honors

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Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford, right, is inducted by Northern California Seniors Softball Association President Ron McElyea Thursday at the Big League Dreams sports complex.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED August 16, 2013 1:01 a.m.

Willie Weatherford cherishes each and every moment of playing softball.

He knows that an injury here or there might be a sign to finally walk away from the game he’s played since his youth.

“I’ve played organized baseball every summer since I was 10,” said Weatherford, who was one of five inducted into the Northern California Senior Softball Association Hall of Fame on Thursday.

The induction event was a highlight of the NCSSA Hall of Fame event. The three-day tournament is taking place at Big League Dreams.

As mayor since 2002, Weatherford is proud to have brought BLD to Manteca. His grandson, Ray Tinnin, who is now 18, helped throw out the ceremonious first-pitch during the opening ceremonies of the sports complex back in 2006. The mayor has been playing baseball or softball for more than 60 years.

Tinnin was among the first in the family to congratulate Weatherford on his NCSSA enshrinement. The mayor  shared the special moment with fellow inductees Bob Fernandez, Ernie Gomez, Harry Purslow, and Ed Sorensen.

Fernandez played senior softball after moving to El Dorado Hills, where he served two positions on the local softball league board. He was also vice president of the NCSSA board and currently plays for the Lincoln Hills Coyotes and the Sacramento Blues 65s.

Gomez was an original member of the San Jose Vintage. He also played for the Palo Alto Chiefs, Chico and Big Valley softball teams.

Purslow began playing senior softball at 50, beginning with the Palo Alto Cherokees. He relocated to Sacramento, where he got involved in the South Placer Senior Softball Association as a player and a board member. Purslow also helped bring NCSSA tournaments to Medford, Ore.

Sorenson also played in the South Placer league. That’s where he was introduced to senior softball and, over the years, has been on many regional and national championship teams.

Weatherford joked about the numerous teams he’s play on since being introduced to senior softball in 1993. Included were the Outlaws, Northern Express, Court Jesters, Mudville Nine, Nova Care, Legions, Big Valley, Solano Enforcers, the Ravens and, currently, the Raptors.

“In senior softball, you meet a lot of gentlemen,” he said.

After baseball, Weatherford played fast-pitch softball and slo-pitch softball, playing in city league into his 30s and 40s. From there, he also got involved in a Masters League for those over age 40 in Sacramento.

Over the years, Weatherford had to change positions on the field. He started out at shortstop, anchoring the middle infield throughout his youth and teens and even while he was in the service.

He transitioned to the outfield, where he patrolled the vast expanse into his 60s. Weatherford went to first base after dealing with an assortment of knee problems.

With the Raptors, he’s comfortable playing behind the plate as catcher.

Despite dealing with the assortment of nagging injuries, Weatherford still has plenty of games left to play.

His team recently earned a berth to the upcoming Tournament of Champions thanks to a strong showing in the Senior Softball-USA Western Nationals. He’ll also play in the winner-take-all World Masters Championships in Las Vegas late next month.

The big prize for Weatherford and his team is in Florida come early February with the Tournament of Champions.

He was thrilled with his hall-of-fame induction, sharing the moment with his immediate family.

Weatherford, in addition, was pleased to look into the crowd and see the support from the City of Manteca folks during his special moment. Included were City Manager Karen McLaughlin, City Clerk Joann Tilton, fire Chief Kirk Waters, and councilmen John Harris and Vince Hernandez, to name a few.

To reach reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail

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