Clyde Bennett celebrates 60 years in men’s fastpitch softball

Written by Bob on March 18th, 2014

(What a wonderful tribute by Rudy Soriano to Clyde Bennett, one of the most dedicated men in the history of boys’ and men’s fastpitch softball.)

2014-Bennett,Clyde.1web Clyde Bennett, front and middle, with his Santa Barbara League Champion Clydesdale team. Bennett, who plays, manages, sponsors, umpires, and runs the Best of The West men’s fastpitch tournament, will celebrate 60 years as a player on Wednesday night. Photo courtesy / Rudy Soriano

By RUDY SORIANO / Santa Barbara Clydesdale and NAFA 23-Under Fastpitch Player

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – If you were to go to the Santa Barbara’s Elings Park softball fields on any given evening, you will find a man who has been playing longer than the existence of the park itself.

This man wears many hats here: league/tournament coordinator, umpire, coach, but the most impressive hat this man dons is player.

This year marks the 60th anniversary as a player for Clyde Bennett and this Wednesday night he will put on his catcher’s mask to celebrate this tremendous milestone.

Clyde started playing fastpitch at the age of 16 in 1954 with his church team in the fastpitch leagues of Paramount, CA. Since then it has seemed almost impossible to get him away from the game. His love for the game didn’t just stop at playing but he contributed back by becoming an umpire in ’61 and continues to do so to this day, whether it be for the fields of Elings or local area high school games.

Around the end of his 20’s, Bennett came to Santa Barbara, a place that he calls home. Back then the city had approximately 60 teams ranging from church leagues, industrial leagues, to ASA Class A B C & D leagues. Sadly, the league is now down to four teams but Clyde continues to introduce people to the game, developing new players and pitchers.

    A COOPERSTOWN-LIKE SHRINE TO FASTPITCH

As a player and coach, Clyde has accumulated nearly a hundred trophies from league championships and local and national tournaments. Taking a step into the home of Clyde Bennett is like taking a trip into Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame.

In his trophy room not only will you see old fastpitch memorabilia, the faces of present and past players included in team championship pictures, but you will see numerous trophies scattered from floor to ceiling, resting on any shelf or window sill, on and around the fireplace mantel, pouring out of that room into the hallway.

Sitting on the walls of that hallway are nearly 150 hats that Clyde has collected from past teams. Clyde’s newest trophies sitting in this “hallway of nostalgia” are those attained from his Santa Barbara Fastpitch League championship winning team, properly named the Clydesdales and his NAFA World Series national trophies from his 23-Under team, the Young Bucks.

    EIGHT TRIPS TO NAFA WORLD SERIES AND CLIMBING

Bennett has been able to take eight 23-U teams to Nationals, all which have finished in the top three. And he plans to take another team to the 2014 NAFA World Series in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois this with plans of bringing the championship trophy back to California.

    NO BETTER MEMORY

Having just celebrated his 76th birthday this past week and after all these years of playing, when asked what has been his favorite memory as a player he said it is being able to play alongside with and catch for his son, Mark Bennett.

Clyde has had the fortunate opportunity do this for the past 35 years and this Wednesday night the two will pair up once again as the first place Clydesdales look to stay on top the league in search of their 8th consecutive championship.

When asked what he had to share to future generations playing the sport, he said:

“I just hope the game doesn’t die due to lack of young players and pitchers.That is why I’ve worked so hard on the 23-Under movement.”

He plans to take his Young Bucks back to the 2014 NAFA 23-under World Series, but he has lost many players due to age restrictions.

    YOUNG PLAYERS WANTED

Any interest for young players to play for Bennett can be expressed to him through email, clydebennett50@gmail.com or phone (805) 895-9007.

Clyde also resumes his role as tournament director for the 23rd Annual Best of the West tournament on the weekend of June 7-8 located at Santa Barbara’s Elings Park.

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