Around the ball yard at the SCIFL Alliance Tournament

Written by Bob on June 30th, 2016
Jesse Ortiz is the president of the So. California Independent Fastpitch League (SCIFL), and he also pitches for the So. Cal Bandits. Photo By BOB OTTO

Jesse Ortiz is the president of the So. California Independent Fastpitch League (SCIFL), and he also pitches for the So. Cal Bandits. Photo By BOB OTTO

SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif. – I had never been to Little Lake Park in Santa Fe Springs, either as a player or reporter. But after my visit Saturday, June 25, for the So. California Independent Fastpitch League Alliance Tournament, I give the venue where SCIFL plays most of its tournament games, a thumbs-up.

The four ball diamonds are within easy walking distance for teams and fans. It’s a relief to not have to drive back and forth between distant ball fields. And there’s plenty of shade trees to cool off for players, families and fans.

HE DOES IT ALL – SCIFL President Jesse Ortiz must be exhausted after these two-day SCIFL tournaments held throughout the fastpitch season. Ortiz does it all – from recruiting teams, making out the bracket, prepping the fields, setting up the scorekeepers at each ball diamond, and even doing a little fencing.

Ortiz, with the help of just one volunteer, erected fencing around two of the ball fields. Twice. On Saturday night, he had to take down the temporary fencing for fear of having it stolen by thieves in the middle of the night. Then early Sunday morning, he had to put the fencing back up.

All this work is complicated by one other matter: Ortiz pitches for the So. Cal Bandits. One minute I saw him raking and prepping a field, the next he’s on the rubber pitching. Very few in fastpitch work as hard as this man running a league. Ortiz also said that a good Mexican team contacted him about playing in an upcoming SCIFL tournament.

ELI SALAZAR MAKES THE BIG SHOW – A versatile player, Salazar started playing in 1996 at the lower levels. But last year, while playing for J & B Painting, he got the chance to play in his first ISC World Tournament. Stepping into the batter’s box against three of the world’s best and hardest throwing pitchers was a big challenge, but one he embraced.

“I faced Adam Folkard (Most Valuable Pitcher for the tournament champion United Hill Chiefs), Sean Cleary (second-team, all-world pitcher for runner-up Toronto Gators), and Juan Potolicchio,” said Salazar, who also plays and pitches for Those Guys of Long Beach. “Playing against them is fastpitch at it’s best. The ISC World Tournament is the major leagues of fastpitch. I learned that I can compete against that kind of pitching.”

SCIFL’s NO. 1 FAN – He cheers, he critiques, and he unabashedly has an affection for the game of fastpitch. That would be 82-year-old Joe “Brooklyn” Gallo, who seldom misses SCIFL ball games at Little Lake Park since be became a fan five years a go.

Joe "Brooklyn" Gallo enjoys watching men's fastpitch action at the SCIFL Alliance tournaments. Photo By BOB OTTO

Joe “Brooklyn” Gallo enjoys watching men’s fastpitch action at the SCIFL Alliance tournaments. Photo By BOB OTTO

Brooklyn –as he likes to be called – since he grew up in Brooklyn, New York, played fastpitch in his younger days and, he admits with a smile and a laugh, he wasn’t the best at fielding ground balls.

“I played shortstop in fastpitch and baseball and didn’t have much talent, but a lot of fun,” he said. “I made so many errors (teammates) called me ‘E6’.”

Perhaps he wasn’t gifted with talent on the field, but he knows the game and talent when he sees it. Especially the Vancouver, BC, A’s of Canada, the No. 5 ranked team in the world. The A’s won the SCIFL tournament (6-0), and outscored the local teams by a 45-5 margin.

“It’s awesome to see a team like the A’s,” Brooklyn said. “Their pitcher (Ramon) Jones throws hard. He has a good sinker and change-up, but when he (puts the) ball over the plate it gets hit.” Brooklyn was referring to the final inning of the A’s game with the A1Rockies in which the Rockies got three hits off Jones, but still lost 7-3.

JONES, GARRITY AND DRAGE TOUGH CHUCKERS – The A’s pitchers proved hard to beat for SCIFL teams (rated NAFA A – AA). Jones (Venezuela) throws heat with and explosive drop ball; Gregg Garrity (Canida) has all the pitches and is one tough competitor, along with being one of the best hitters in the game; and Eurera Drage (New Zealand) is listed as an infielder on the A’s ISC roster, but the left-hander can hold his own in the circle.

Gregg Garrity is one of fastpitch softball most multi-talented players as a pitcher and hitter. Photo By BOB OTTO

Gregg Garrity is one of fastpitch softball most multi-talented players as a pitcher and hitter. Photo By BOB OTTO

MORE ON THE A’s – Officially listed from Canada on the ISC roster, the A’s originate from California. On the roster, 8 of 18 players are from California, with only four players from Canada. The roster rounds out with representation from Venezuela, Argentina, New Zealand, and the states of Indiana, Kentucky, and Washington.

FATHER AND SON LEARN TOGETHER – When Greg and Cory Wertz decided to become pitchers, they had an advantage many beginning pitchers don’t have: a catcher to throw to. That is, to each other.

54 year old, Greg Wertz, the father, had an edge over his son. He had batters to practice on at Pierce College, where he threw batting practice to the women’s softball team. But soon enough Cory was throwing.

“We started learning to pitch about the same time,” said Cory, 29, who’s been pitching for four years. “We would throw to each other at the park, taking turns pitching to each other. We slowly developed and got tips and encouragement from Ed Patterson, Debby Day and Lumar Goss (all three pitchers).”

Cory Wertz fires a pitch during the A1 Rockies game with the BC A's. Photo By BOB OTTO

Cory Wertz fires a pitch during the A1 Rockies game with the BC A’s. Photo By BOB OTTO

Cory pitched for the A1 Rockies in the SCIFL tournament, and showed good speed and movement on his rise ball and drop. He also pitches in the Burbank league – which appears very competitive with the likes of high-caliber pitchers such as Rob Schweyer, Jason Gluckman and Matt Barnes.

VETERAN SHOWS ALL-AROUND SKILL – Nearly everyone in Southern California knows that Randy Clay is a pitcher. He’s won at nearly every level – ISC, ASA, and NAFA. Now 51, Clay said he doesn’t pitch quite as much anymore. But on Saturday, none-the-less, he was on the ball diamond. At first base.

Veteran pitcher Randy Clay, showed that he could swing the bat when not windmilling the ball. Photo By BOB OTTO

Veteran pitcher Randy Clay, showed that he could swing the bat when not windmilling the ball. Photo By BOB OTTO

Clay showed a good eye, got a hit, and he drove in a run for the So Cal Heat. He also plays for the Casa Trejo Bombers in the SCIFL Masters League (age 40-Above). Last year, the Bombers took third in the North American Fastpitch Association West Masters World Series in Carson City.

CASTILLO GIVES THE YOUNGSTERS A CHANCE – Most managers would prefer to enlist the services of veteran players when playing to win in a competitive league such as the SCIFL. Castillo wants to win. But the manager / sponsor of the Those Guys of Long Beach, looks beyond winning.

He looks at the survival of the game. And survival must include recruiting, training and giving young players an opportunity to play and mature if the game is to survive.

“They need the experience and they will learn,” said Castillo, who is also the father of USA Softball national team player, Kevin Castillo, who plays third base for the BC A’s.

Kevin Castillo's skill at the plate and in the field earned the So. Calif. resident a spot on the USA Softball national team. Photo By BOB OTTO

Kevin Castillo’s skill at the plate and in the field earned the So. Calif. resident a spot on the USA Softball national team. Photo By BOB OTTO

Castillo has four players on Those Guys either still in high school or recently graduated. Including 17-year-old Jason Obregon, Jr.; Justin Martinez, 17, Hugo Candelas, 17, and Dominic Marquez, 18.

Hugo made second-team, all-league in baseball at Covina High School. Saturday was his very first day facing quality fastpitch teams and pitching. “It’s fast paced,” he said. “A lot of fun.”

For Jason Obregon, who played baseball at Fairfax High School, fastpitch was just a natural progression as his dad plays and his grandfather once played. He doesn’t much care where he plays, he wants to be on the field.

“I’ll play wherever I get a chance,” he said, adding that the real challenge of hitting fastpitch is the speed from a short distance compared to baseball and, “the different movement up and down.”

Along with the youngsters, Castillo has 21-year-old Jusef Davis, Jr. anchoring centerfield, and Dominic Des Vigne, 21, on his roster. Davis has skyrockedted to the top of the sport. After a strong showing in the ASA / USA tournament in Ashland, Ohio, he was been picked up by the Peligro Gremlins of New York.

Yusef Davis Jr., reaches up and slaps a high rise ball off BC A's pitcher Gregg Garrity and reaches safely on an infield single. Photo By BOB OTTO

Yusef Davis Jr., reaches up and slaps a high rise ball off BC A’s pitcher Gregg Garrity and reaches safely on an infield single. Photo By BOB OTTO

“This is really fun for our young team to see a top team,” Castillo said, before Those Guys game with the BC A’s. “They will be getting great experiencing playing a team like that.”

**For more information on SCIFL Alliance tournaments, contact Jesse Ortiz at SCIFL Ortiz , or 661-510-8928.**

3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Tony Coppin says:

    Bob, when you asked me if any SoCal Masters were still around, I forgot to mention Roger Penticoff made a comeback earlier this month at the Masters’ round robin. He said it was his first foray back into fastpitch since the Masters closed up shop.

  2. Bob says:

    Tony, does Roger still swing as hard as he did when he was a “young” master? Tell him hi for me. I believe he has a son playing. What team are you playing with in the Coyotes 4th of July tournament?

  3. Tony Coppin says:

    Bob, in Roger’s second plate appearance, he hit a bases loaded triple. He can’t play defense yet. He had rotator-cuff surgery in December.

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