FRIENDS – These three gentlemen and fast friends have been around fastpitch for over 60 years each. From left, Jim “Chayo” Rodriguez, Alfonso Lechuga and John Maciel. Photo By BOB OTTO
CORONA, Calif. – In 1941, 14-year-old Jim “Chayo” Rodriguez trotted on to a softball field and for nearly 40 years his prolific bat, tenacious defense and fierce desire to win, led his teams to league and tournament victories.
Rodriguez not only played fastpitch softball, but baseball as well on the ball diamonds of Corona, Riverside, Colton and San Bernardino.
Though he loved playing both sports – often five nights a week and in tournaments on the weekend – he finally settled for fastpitch.
ALL THE SKILLS FOR FASTPITCH
The game required quick feet, a sure-handed glove and fast, accurate throws from his third base spot. And at the plate, Rodriguez’ quick, compact swing was ideally suited for a sport in which the pitcher throws 80-mph rise balls and drops from 46 feet.
Rodriguez played for several top-caliber fastpitch teams including Barto’s Washer, Wink’s Café and Lindy’s Red Devils.
In those days, fastpitch at Corona’s City Park drew hundreds of fans. The competition was fierce with many businesses, restaurants and taverns sponsoring teams.
But finally, the rigors of the game wore down his legs and throwing arm, convincing him it was time to retire. Though his bat argued otherwise.
“I retired at 50 from playing even though I could still hit,” said Rodriguez, who at 86, still loves the game and seldom misses any men or girls’ fastpitch in or around his hometown of Corona.