Neil Jones builds his Field of Dreams and his passion grows

Written by Bob on September 6th, 2016
Dave Meltz, left, and Neil and Ginni Jones were at the 2016 Raymond Angulo Men's Memorial Fastpitch Tournament, Sept. 3-4. Meltz pitched for Redline, while Neil Jones pitched and played the infield for Streamline 55-Older Masters team. The three are long-time friends who once lived in Wisconsin, but now Meltz lives in So. Calif., and the Jones's live in Las Vegas. Photo By BOB OTTO

Dave Meltz, left, and Neil and Ginni Jones were at the 2016 Raymond Angulo Men’s Memorial Fastpitch Tournament, Sept. 3-4. Meltz pitched for Redline, while Neil Jones pitched and played the infield for Streamline 55-Older Masters team. The three are long-time friends who once lived in Wisconsin, but now Meltz lives in So. Calif., and the Jones’s live in Las Vegas. Photo By BOB OTTO

LAS VEGAS – There are sports buffs who will do just about anything to satisfy their particular passion. Neil Jones is one of them.

Back in the early 1970s while a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Jones happened by a softball diamond, saw some guys playing fastpitch, and thought, “this looks like fun.” So he joined a team and started playing. And he’s never stopped.

In fact, several years later, he went into business and bought a tavern – the Diamond Inn – in Deerfield, just outside of Madison.

He could have continued driving the 21 miles to Madison to play fastpitch. But he had a better idea: Build his own ball diamond at the inn.

“I wanted my field of dreams,” said Jones.“I bought Diamond Inn in 1982 and built the field two years later. I had lights put in and we played fastpitch Monday and Thursday nights in a league.”

And while he was at it, Jones satisfied another of his passions: he became a pitcher. And a good one.

“He’s got huge hands which is good for pitching,” said long-time friend and fellow pitcher Dave Meltz. “We played against each other in Madison. Neil has a real passion for the game and an interesting story building his own ball field.”

CRAFTY LEFTY FROM WISCONSIN - Dave Meltz fires a pitch during the 2016 Raymond Angulo Memorial Men's Fastpitch Tournament, Sept. 3-4, in Corona, Calif. Originally from Wisconsin, Meltz once played against his friend Neil Jones in Madison, Wisc. leagues. Photo By BOB OTTO

CRAFTY LEFTY FROM WISCONSIN – Dave Meltz fires a pitch during the 2016 Raymond Angulo Memorial Men’s Fastpitch Tournament, Sept. 3-4, in Corona, Calif. Originally from Wisconsin, Meltz once played against his friend Neil Jones in Madison, Wisc. leagues. Photo By BOB OTTO

Jones owned the Diamond Inn and ran his league for about 10 years until he sold, and bought a bowling alley in Cottage Grove. Part of the appeal was that it came with two softball fields. All he had to do was install the lights and start a league.

“I set up a Monday – Thursday league and we had 14 teams,” he said. “I was the commissioner and set up the schedule.”

About this time, Jones found another love. He met Ginni. And he wasn’t about to let her get away. So at age 51, the fastpitch-playing bachelor got married.

And whether it’s league or tournament play, Ginni can be found at the ball diamond with Neil. She’s outgoing, enjoys meeting and talking with fastpitch folks, and she loves watching her husband play.

Neil Jones takes a cut while playing for Streamline 55-Older Masters in the 2016 Raymond Angulo Memorial Men's Fastpitch Tournament. Photo By BOB OTTO

Neil Jones takes a cut while playing for Streamline 55-Older Masters in the 2016 Raymond Angulo Memorial Men’s Fastpitch Tournament. Photo By BOB OTTO

And Ginni has seen him shine on the ball diamond. In 2006 he played for Schneid’s Sports Bar and Grill of Madison and won the NAFA A-Division World Series.

And in 2010, Jones was selected the Most Valuable Pitcher in the 55-plus NAFA Masters World Series for Shoe Box of Wisconsin.

Amid all this fastpitch playing, the couple moved to Las Vegas when Ginni was offered a job they couldn’t refuse.

Only one problem for Jones: No fastpitch in Las Vegas. But still loving the ball diamond, he reluctantly settled for slow pitch.

“It was something to do, but it’s not fastpitch,” he said.

Fortunately, he met pitcher Greg Wertz while watching the annual Las Vegas Road Trip tournament. Wertz told him that fastpitch was still being played in Southern California and he invited Jones to play.

“We still live in Las Vegas,” Jones said. “But I drive here for tournaments.”

Most recently, “here” was in Corona at the Raymond Angulo Memorial Men’s Tournament, Sept. 3-4. A 250-mile, one-way trip.

This isn’t unusual, though. Jones often drives the long distance from Las Vegas to various cities in Southern California to satisfy his fastpitch passion.

Why would a 64-year-old man, sensible and sound of mind do this?

“I just love the game,” he said.

11 Comments so far ↓

  1. Tom Stasik says:

    That’s great. A very nice article. Most young men nowadays don’t know what they are missing.

  2. Bobby "Spec" Spector says:

    “smokem started his softball career as a second baseman for Dizon’s Mens Wear. He tried pitching,and got his chance the next season when the regular pitcher switched teams before the season began.
    Neil became a winner and with a great group of players won many tournies in the early 80s.
    Neil has enjoyed playing fast pitch softball,and been very sucessful. Spec

  3. Bob says:

    Thanks for sharing Spec. Much appreciated. And great to hear from one of his Wisconsin teammates.

  4. Ralph Ciolkosz says:

    I have been a teammate as well as an opponent of Neal’s.
    I share his passion for the game! ?

  5. Ah yes …Neil Jones ….the best descriptor that comes to mind when thinking about him is …Genuine!!

  6. Matt Horton says:

    Neil is a good pitcher and a great teammate. Glad to hear he found an outlet in the west! I once had a HR off Neil, but I’m sure he remembers it was wind aided…

  7. Mike White says:

    Played against and also with Neil.
    Great competitor who beat alot of good teams.

  8. Terry Armstrong says:

    I worked for Neil & played the infield behind him…one of the nicest guys I have known…

  9. Tim Raimer says:

    Portage, WI was Wisconsin’s home for fast pitch softball. Now the City took out all the city softball diamonds so they could build a couple more soccer fields. 5 soccer fields 0 softball fields. This suck! I played for 30 years, my family played for 150 years.

  10. Jim Wickert says:

    Had the pleasure of catching both of these fine pitchers back in the day. Dave played for us in the Brooklyn fastpitch league. Lost track of him for a few years and then we crossed paths at an ASA 40+ Masters in Springfield, MO. He was then with a team from SoCal.

    Had the good fortune to catch Neil in a tournament. What an experience. Control was impeccable. Could have given the sign, sat on a milk stool and closed my eyes. Unforgettable!

  11. Mike Armbrust says:

    Neil – friend, teammate, and what a competitor.

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