Someone to know: Jesse Ortiz, president of the So. Calif. Independent Fastpitch League

Written by Bob on March 24th, 2016


BURBANK, Calif. – When he was just a young 21-year-old, Jesse Ortiz’ fastpitch world consisted of just playing the game he loved. Either behind the plate, or in the infield. Those were simple times. Show up for the games, play and go home.

But oh how his fastpitch world has changed.

Now 41, he still plays and wouldn’t think of giving that up – especially since he’s advanced his skills and become a pitcher. But he’s also taken on a huge responsibility as president of the Southern California Independent Fastpitch League (SCIFL).

In 2014, then president Robert Hernandez announced his retirement. So who would step up and take the reins? Ortiz answered the call. And if he hadn’t, SCIFL faced a dire consequence.

“Robert (announced) he would retire in December 2014,” said Ortiz. “If no one would take over the league, it would fold, so I agreed to do it. The first year (2015) I spent learning how it all works with Robert helping me.”

Under Ortiz’s direction, SCIFL, which is affiliated with NAFA, has stayed a steady course. The league has from eight to ten teams that meet for weekend tournaments throughout the season. Along with that, a healthy masters 40-over league with eight to 10 teams plays on scheduled Sundays.

Ortiz spends long hours running the weekend tournaments, along with tabulating the results, stats and standings for the SCIFL website. He’s quick to add that Hernandez remains the steady-hand-of-help, and that Umpire-In-Chief, Pete Davis, has been his ally in running SCIFL tournaments.

“We run the tournaments hand-in-hand,” Ortiz said, “and Robert still gives me guidance.”

Sure the work is trying and seemingly never ending. But Ortiz takes satisfaction in seeing the league grow and succeed – not only locally, but on the national level as well with several teams playing in the NAFA World Series.

In 2015, SCIFL sent three teams to the World Series, along with seven masters teams playing in the NAFA Masters West held annually in Carson City, Nevada. Ortiz is aiming a little higher this season.

“I would like to increase it and send four teams to NAFA (2016 in Mankato, MN),” he said. “That’s my goal to try and get more teams to go.”

And when the first pitch is thrown at the NAFA World Series and the NAFA Masters West, Ortiz will be there. Both as a player and as a commissioner in charge of bat testing. But all of that won’t start until August.

For now he’s busy running the league that kicked off in March, and preparing for the biggest tournament on the west coast, and one of the biggest and most popular in North America: the Las Vegas Road Trip. 2016 will mark the ninth anniversary of the tournament. And it is shaping up to be a great event.

Currently upwards of 36 teams have shown interest with 32 teams committed. Teams are coming from throughout the United States as well as north and south of its borders.

“We have teams from Canada and Mexico,” he said. “We’ve gotten lots of inquiries from Canadian teams, and would probably have more if the (monetary) exchange rate was better. But I’m glad to see the tournament staying strong.”

Ortiz looks with satisfaction that several young players have taken up the sport and are helping keep SCIFL strong, while also having an impact at the NAFA World Series.

In 2015, the Santa Barbara Young Bucks, led by Clyde Bennett, won the 23-Under World Series. And five of those Young Bucks came from the Bandits ball club that plays in SCIFL.

He also points to two 20-somethings as having bright futures in the circle: Cory James Wertz pitching for the A1 Rockies, and Jason Martinez with the Beaumont Coyotes.

“We’ve got some young guys learning how to pitch,” he said, adding that in SCIFL there are no pitching restrictions. “We allow every (caliber) of pitcher. It lets the hitters see good pitching and helps prepare them for the NAFA World Series.”

As for pitching, Ortiz still finds time to step into the circle. During the week, he pitches for the Sharks in the Burbank League, and on Sundays he’s firing the ball for the Rebels in the Montebello League.

It’s hard to imagine anyone in fastpitch busier as a player and president of a league than Ortiz. But for the love of the game he agreed to sacrifice some playing time for SCIFL’s survival. And for that, we are indebted.

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