Jesse Ortiz commits to save SCIFL

Written by Bob on March 7th, 2019

JESSE ORTIZ is kept busy at the 2017 NAFA World Series checking bats to certify that they meet NAFA specifications. Photo By BOB OTTO / 2017 NAFA World Series.

. – Someone had to step up, and if he wouldn’t, who would?

In 2015, the Southern California Independent Fastpitch League (SCIFL) was facing a leadership crisis. Its long-time president, Robert Hernandez, was retiring with no one willing to take the reins. Except for one man.

Realizing the league was in danger of folding when Hernandez stepped down, Jesse Ortiz essentially said, “I’ll do it.”

“It was going to fold unless someone took over,” said Ortiz, 44. “So I decided to step up and do it to keep it going.”

Fastpitch For Young and Old

SCIFL basically has two divisions. One for younger teams that plays under an Alliance schedule, and a Masters division of 40-plus, 50-plus and 60-plus teams that has its own masters travel league schedule. Both divisions play several weekend tournaments at Little Lake and Los Nietos parks in Santa Fe Springs from March through August.

With the sport declining in many parts of California, Ortiz is pleased that SCIFL has averted that downward spiral.

“We are seeing growth this year,” he said. “Our first tournament (Masters on Mar. 10 at Little Lake Park) will have 11 teams, where before we averaged between eight to ten. And our younger teams will have about eight. We will have between 15 to 18 teams in our league.”

Three Times The Fun

JUAN CONTRERAS manages three ball clubs in SCIFL: Budmen, Budmen 40 and Budmen 50. Here he hoists a championship trophy after winning the NAFA Masters 40-Over in Carson City, Nev., in 2018. Courtesy Photo Budmen Fastpitch

Juan Contreras, 44, has been a passionate advocate of SCIFL for nine years when he began playing and managing in the league. He has three teams entered: Budmen Fastpitch, a younger team, along with two masters teams, Budmen Masters 40 and Budmen Masters 50.

Contreras understands the value of having a reliable league in which to compete. And without SCIFL, he’s not sure where his ball clubs could play.

“It would be very tough for any team and players to get highly competitive action in Southern California without SCIFL,” said Contreras. “We have a few (city) leagues, but it doesn’t compare to SCIFL in preparing our teams and developing players for national tournaments.”

SCIFL Produces World Series Champs

And on the national stage, most notably in NAFA World Series competition, SCIFL has fared very well.

“We’ve had success in the World Series,” Ortiz said. “Last year, we had two teams in the championship; that’s a first for us. The SoCal Knights (7-0) won the A Division over WAH (Morongo Indian Reservation club) who was runner-up. That was huge for SCIFL.”

Ortiz adds that several SCIFL teams have done well in the World Series by placing in the top-ten, along with winning division championships as the Long Beach Wolfpack and Taft Buzzards did in recent years.

Ortiz Juggles Busy Schedule

When JESSE ORTIZ isn’t pitching in to help at the NAFA World Series, or busy running the So. Calif. Independent Fastpitch League Alliance tournaments, he can be found in the circle. Photo By BOB OTTO / 2017 NAFA World Series

Now, you might be thinking that running SCIFL would be more than enough work for one man. But not Ortiz. He’s also a pitcher for the So Cal Bandits, serves as a NAFA Director for Southern California, helps run the NAFA World Series, and he’s also tournament director of the Las Vegas Road Trip, now in its 12th year. The tournament will be held April 12-14 and has a record number of teams entered.

“We have filled it with 50 teams,” Ortiz said. “We’ve got teams coming from Canada, Oklahoma, Minnesota, South Dakota, Kansas and other states. This has been a growing event, growing every year.”

In 2015, when Ortiz became SCIFL president, the tournament had 36 teams, then grew to 44 and now 50. But more wanted in this year.

“Sixty-four teams showed interest,” he said. “We had to expand because of the interest.”

USA And Canada Vegas Bound

Two of the entries should be a draw for fans – the USA and Canada junior men’s national teams. Both ball clubs (age 19-under) will compete in the 2020 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) World Championship in New Zealand.

“We are proud to help the USA and Canada teams,” Ortiz said.

But running the Las Vegas Road Trip isn’t a one-man operation. Without the help of 10 volunteers, along with Clark Evans, a NAFA vice president, it would be impossible to pull off such a huge tournament.

But for certain one man will have a firm grip on the reins. The man who agreed to step up when duty called and assume the leadership of SCIFL.

“It’s hard to imagine if SCIFL wasn’t around,” Contreras said. “Jesse Ortiz has done a great job as president of our league.”

1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Parksy says:

    This guy has a full-time job in the real world too, kudos to Jesse for everything he has done for us. The teams from SoCal always perform well in Nationals because of the the competition in both the Alliance and Masters tournaments. Oh yeah, he always has a smile on his face too.

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