Young Beaumont Coyote has come a long way in men’s fastpitch softball

Written by Bob on April 23rd, 2014

SorianoNAFA Richard Soriano of Banning, Calif. started playing fastpitch at age 15 and in 10 short years has come a long way in the sport. Contributed photo

BANNING, Calif. – If you grow up in Beaumont, California and you’re a member of the Valdivia family, and your grandfather runs one of the longest running men’s fastpitch teams in the state, well, chances are you’ve spent a fair amount of time on the ball diamond.

And so it goes for Richard Soriano.

“I was born into it,” said Soriano, 25. “I was raised by my grandfather (David Valdivia) and he ran the Beaumont Coyotes.”

Most of the Valdivia’s and their relatives grew up with fastpitch. It’s a long-standing family tradition that goes back over 50 years. And they all played at one time or another for the Coyotes.

“My grandfather runs the team and we have uncles, cousins and brothers (playing together),” said Soriano, who can play every position except pitcher. He’s also advanced from solely a right-side hitter to batting from both sides of the plate.

But he admits to a frustrating dilemma in the early years: the pitch that spins sharply above the letters.

“It took me years to leave the high rise ball alone,” he said.

    MUCH SUCCESS IN A SHORT TIME

Soriano got his fastpitch start when he was just 15. And in those 10 years he’s come a long way. He’s played in ASA national championships and in the NAFA World Series where he was named All-World in the A Division, and he also helped the Young Bucks of Santa Barbara finish Runner-up in the 23-Under Division.

Soriano still owes his allegiance to his grandfather and the Coyotes in local tournaments. But he also plays for one of the better NAFA teams in Southern California, the Colton Dirtbags.

Playing with the Dirtbags in the 2012 NAFA World Series, “is my biggest thrill,” he said, adding that, “my best moment was being a reserve on the Coyotes and winning our own 4th of July tournament.” (The 4th of July Coyotes tournament has been running non-stop for 36 years.)

    MAN OF MANY TALENTS

Dirtbags manager and first baseman Joaquin Juarez is happy to have Soriano on the ball club.

“He is a great infielder and tough as nails,” said Juarez, adding that Richard’s younger brother Gabe plays for the Dirtbags and is also a talented ball player. And along with Gabe, there’s also brother Rudy, who plays. “I pretty much use him as a utility, whether it be infield or outfield, or catching. He has power right-handed, but when situations call for it, he turns around and slaps left-handed.”

In the recent Las Vegas Road Trip VII tournament (April 11-13), the Dirtbags didn’t play very well, admits Juarez, but Soriano?

“We had a horrible performance,” Juarez said. “But Richie was on fire. I’d say he batted in the .600 to .700 (batting average range). “I remember more recently playing J and B Painting and facing Travis Price (former USA Softball National Team pitcher) where he bunted, stole second and ended up stealing home in extra innings to lead us to victory.

“His first tourney in Las Vegas with us, he had like three home runs and two doubles to lead us to a 5-0 record and the Las Vegas tourney championship.”

    ALL-LEAGUE AND ALL-COMMUNITY

Along with playing fastpitch in his teenage years, Soriano also played high school baseball and football, earning all-league honors in both sports.

But there’s more to Soriano than playing sports. He’s become a leader in his Banning community. In 2012 he helped lead the drive to start the Banning-Pass Little League program. And it has become very popular and successful, winning District 58 and Section 9 championships.

Soriano’s allegiance to his hometown comes as no surprise to Juarez.

“Aside from being a close friend,” Juarez said, “he is a family man devoted to his community and I respect that about him. (He is) a quality player who is also a quality person.”

But away from Little League, work and family, you will often find Soriano somewhere on a softball diamond.

Why the attraction to fastpitch?

“I like the speed of the game and there’s a lot of strategy with every pitch,” he said, adding that, “my goal is to win a NAFA World Series with the Dirtbags.”

Leave a Comment