Successful season earns Yusef Davis a spot on USA Softball’s Pan American fastpitch team

Written by Bob on September 1st, 2017

Possessing speed, quick hands, an aggressive style and commitment to the game, YUSEF DAVIS, JR., 23, of Long Beach, Calif. is well on his way to becoming a star in men’s fastpitch. Here he is seen playing for CR Bartels Farms of Portland, Ore. that won the NAFA AA-Major World Series, Aug. 11, 2017. Photo By BOB OTTO / 2017 NAFA World Series

LONG BEACH, Calif. – During the week, Yusef Davis, Jr. can be found near his Long Beach home either in the gym, at the batting cages, or engaged in any kind of sweat-filled labor that will help improve his fastpitch softball skills.

During most weekends, however, he’s anywhere but home.

A search could find him in fastpitch havens such as Wisconsin, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania or Michigan competing in high-caliber fastpitch tournaments.

Only 23 and in his fourth year playing fastpitch, the demand for his talents just keeps on growing.

    TWO GREAT TOURNAMENTS

Prime examples: During the NAFA World Series, he was in Fargo, North Dakota helping CR Bartel Farms, Portland, Ore. win the AA-Major World Series.

And soon after the championship game ended, he was off to Grand Rapids, Michigan to join his Bear Bottom Haymakers of Ephrata, Penn. for the most exclusive of open-caliber tournaments – the International Softball Congress World Tournament.

Those two tournaments were exhilarating for Davis, who possesses great speed both in the outfield and at the plate, and who is rapidly becoming recognized as one of the up-and-coming young stars of the game.

“The experience playing in the ISC and NAFA was breathtaking,” said Davis, who throws and bats left-sided. “Once you realize you’re on the same ballfield as some of the best players in the world, you just can’t help but be proud and humbled.”

CR Bartels swept through the NAFA AA-Major undefeated at 5-0, and the Bear Bottom Haymakers finished ninth in the 24-team ISC World Tournament at 4-2.

Bear Bottom Haymakers manager, Merlin High, was pleased how Davis played the entire year and at the ISC World Tournament for his squad.

“He’s a great defensive player, one of the best who ever played for me,” said High. “His speed is unmatched by anyone in the game, and he’s a good hitter too with some of those hits coming from his speed beating out ground balls. He’s a great teammate, upbeat and positive. I’m hoping he comes back with us next year.”

    SWEAT & TOIL TO BE BETTER

Though he played well and had a successful season, Davis acknowledges that there are areas that need improvement.

“If I could improve in two areas, it would be pitch selection when I’m in the batter’s box,” he said, “and getting even better jumps on the ball in the outfield. During the off season, I’m going to hit the batting cages even more and work on the fundamentals of hitting, and keep working on my slapping and bunting.”

But the off-season workouts will have to wait for he has one very important and prestigious tournament remaining: The World Baseball Softball Confederation X Pan American Fastpitch Championship in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sept. 15-24.

    PROUD FATHER, SEASONED MENTOR

When Davis got the word that he had been selected to the 15-man roster, he was ecstatic, and he called the one person he knew would be delighted about this honor.

“I called my dad and told him I had made the team,” Davis said. “I know it meant a lot to him. And it means so much for me to represent my country in the sport I have so much passion about.”

Leading up to the Pan Am games, Davis will be consulting with a veteran of USA Softball: Kevin Castillo, who is a teammate of Davis on Those Guys and Patricia’s Mexican restaurant ball clubs from Long Beach.

Castillo, and his father, Paul Castillo, were instrumental in bringing Davis into the sport and nurturing his development.

“Kevin’s always pushing me to be better,” Davis said, “I’ve gotten a lot of help from him on hitting lessons and strategy on defense. Just the confidence he gives me to play at my best is what’s so meaningful.”

    REACHING HIGH, SETTING GOALS

Though he’s still learning, growing, and going through the trials and successes that the sport both challenges and rewards, Davis has set some short-range and long-range goals as well.

In the immediate future, he wants to help USA Softball win the Pan American games, and then if it can be arranged, he would like to take a second trip to New Zealand for a season of “down-under” fastpitch with the Waitakere Bears.

And as for long-range?

“I would love to run softball clinics and coach kids and work with outfielders,” Davis said. “I would like to travel the world playing ball and make as many memories and impact as many young athletes to take the right path as I can – teach one, reach one.”

2017 USA SOFTBALL PAN AMERICAN ROSTER
Kevin Castillo
Jenner Christenson
Joel Cooley
Yusef Davis
Tyler Dudley
Derrick Kennedy
Jonathan Lynch
Tony Mancha
Nick Mullins
Travis Nevin
Jeff Nowacyzk
Erick Ochoa
Cameron Schiller
Chase Turner
Duane Weiler

COACHING STAFF
Gregg Leather, Head Coach
Greg Hicks, Assistant Coach
Nick McCurry
Assistant Coach

 

A Look Back In Time: Happy Chef in Mankato for sale, full of fastpitch softball memories

Written by Bob on September 1st, 2017

The late Leroy Jolstad was a pitching mainstay for Mankato Happy Chef men’s fastpitch team.

By Patrick Reusse / August 23, 2015
StarTribune

MANKATO – The Happy Chef restaurant and adjoining property are for sale. It’s the original and surviving restaurant from a collection of 63 that were once operated in the Midwest by the Fredrick brothers.

“We’re still in business,” said Tom Fredrick, 81. “We’re going to stay in business.”

Mention Happy Chef and many people think of the towering, round Happy Chef figure that stood in front of numerous restaurants — and remains smiling today next to Hwy. 169 as you enter Mankato.

Mention Happy Chef to others and they think of something else near extinction: men’s fastpitch softball.

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Men’s Fastpitch Softball returns to Pipestone

Written by Bob on September 1st, 2017

Scarlett’s of Sioux Falls, So. Dak., won the 2017 Pipestone Men’s Fastpitch Tournament. Photo / The Pipestone County Star

“You need pitching, though. You have to develop the pitchers, that’s the biggest thing. You can get the players, but you have to have the pitching to go along with the rest.” – Pipestone Parks & Recreation Director, and fastpitch player Robert Petersen

By KEVIN KYLE
Pipestone County Star
July 19, 2017

PIPESTONE, Minn. – Men’s fast pitch softball made a brief return to town Saturday and Sunday, as a pair of clubs from Minnesota and two teams from South Dakota squared off in a tournament at Harmon Park in Pipestone.

For most of the younger spectators, the Pipestone Fastpitch Softball Tournament offered a first glimpse of men competing in a sport that Pipestone Area High School has been so successful playing the last 15 years.
Many of their parents, however, recall the heyday of the sport in town in the 1980s and early 90s.

“We haven’t had this here for a long time,” said Pipestone Parks & Recreation Director Robert Petersen, who also plays with the Hennagar’s Plumbing & Heating team out of Lake Crystal. “We used to have a 16-team league here called the Tri-County League, and we had teams from Pipestone, Holland, Woodstock, Ruthton, Leota and Edgerton… played two nights a week. Each town would have a tournament on a weekend, but now it’s really a dying sport around here.”

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Raymond Angulo Memorial Men’s Fastpitch Tournament Supports Special Needs Children

Written by Bob on August 29th, 2017

CORONA, Calif. – Ten of Southern California’s top men’s fastpitch softball teams take to the ball diamonds Sept. 2-3, at Promenade Park Softball Field in Corona.

The tournament will feature some outstanding fastpitch action as it embarks on its 17th year. But it’s purpose is far greater than providing a venue for skilled athletes to showcase their ball playing abilities.

The Raymond Angulo Memorial Men’s Fastpitch Tournament raises money for JoJo’s Circle of Friends, a non-profit organization that helps children with special needs.

The organization was originally established to support Joseph (JoJo) Angulo, born with cerebral Palsy, and who is the grandson of the late Raymond Angulo, one of Corona’s all-time best pitchers, who passed away in 2000.

But over the years, JoJo’s Circle of Friends has reached out to benefit many more children with special needs.

“Raymond’s wife, Antonia and his son Joe Angulo feel blessed and grateful that his memory lives on in the tournament and fundraiser that helps these special needs children,” said Ernie Marez, tournament director.

During the Labor Day weekend tournament, raffles, prizes, and sales from food booths, and other activities will raise needed funds for the organization’s planned events.

  • To learn more about the organization, visit: Facebook / JoJos Circle of Friends.
    • 2017 TEAMS
  • Patricia’s Mexican Restaurant, Long Beach (2016 defending champs)
  • Warriors
  • Some Guys
  • Streamline Cable
  • Corona Chicanos
  • Bad Medicine
  • Beaumont Coyotes
  • Bandits
  • Pala Braves
  • Redline
  •  

    Al Doran, a pioneer in men’s fastball

    Written by Bob on August 29th, 2017

    “Al Doran literally changed the game of fastball when he got involved. He became the focal point for fastball news. The game has never been the same since.” – Blair Setford

    Alsfastball.1sblr Photo By Rosanne Allan / ISC Streaming Producer / Canadian Fastball & American Softball

    RICHMOND HILL, ONTARIO – In the world of fastball, Al Doran is known as a visionary, a game changer, a technology expert. And if you were to fix a title on him, “Friend of Fastball,” fits pretty well.

    For he certainly has been that and more; especially to the International Softball Congress (ISC) and legions of fastball fans worldwide.

    His ball diamond exploits won’t win him much fame. He played fastball as a teenager and adult, and he coached boys and girls’ fastball in Toronto.

    But off the field?

    That’s where he’s made his mark. Doran has nearly 50 years of experience in the design, development and application of computer-based information systems.

      SPREADING THE FASTBALL WORD

    Back in 1995, he saw that fastball had a major problem: It had very little Internet presence. So he took his professional expertise, turned to fastball and basically said: let me help you broadcast fastball news and market this wonderful sport on the Internet.

    “I decided to do something because no one in the media, with the exception of Bob Tomlinson and his Fastpitch Chronicle was talking about the sport,” said Doran. “But the Chronicle often took months to get to subscribers and by then a tournament in your own town could be over, and almost no one knew about it.”

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    ‘Around the Horn’ at the 2017 NAFA World Series

    Written by Bob on August 25th, 2017

    FARGO – While reporting and photographing the 2017 NAFA World Series, I was fortunate to capture a few photos of the players and people who made the 25th Anniversary of the North American Fastpitch Association a special event.

    DAVE MEYER finished with a 4-2 record in leading Duluth Fastpitch to runner-up in the 2017 NAFA A Division World Series. Meyer also pitched for Minnesota Computers / Coasters Bar in the A-Major Division, but didn’t record a decision. Photo By BOB OTTO

    DAVE MEYER has been pitching for over 30 years, but the 56-year-old still gets the job done. In the NAFA A Division he had a 4-2 record in helping Duluth Fastpitch take second place. He also helped Minnesota Computers / Coasters Beer Garden compete in the rigorous A-Major Division.

    His best pitch?

    “He’s got a change-up rise ball that nobody else has ever had as good as his,” said Minnesota Computers Manager Richard Quigley. “He has three effective off-speeds, and when he’s fresh, his ball is moving.”

    The Duluth native has pitched for some outstanding Minnesota ball clubs including Stewart Taylor of Duluth that won the 1988 ASA Class A National Championship.

    “The pitch that everyone had trouble hitting was his change rise ball,” said former teammate Bill Olson of Duluth. “It was like an optical illusion.”

    Well, nothing’s changed much since that glory year of 1988. Thirty years later, his change-up riser was still getting batters out at the NAFA World Series.

    ALEJO MUNOZ, left, and TYLER MASKEY of Bowen (IL) Fastpitch are proud of the Gold Medals awarded them and their teammates for winning the 2017 NAFA A-Major World Series Championship. Photo By BOB OTTO

    After Bowen Fastpitch won the A-Major World Series, the young ball club – many under the age of 20 – celebrated like giddy kids who had just found out they were going to Disneyland.

    The ball club from Bowen, Ill., managed by Rocco Ramsey, a NAFA Hall of Famer, went undefeated at 5-0, with Munoz and Maskey selected to the All-World team for their contributions.

    NAFA umpire CLIFF WHITSON poses with his plaque and jacket after he was inducted into the NAFA Hall of Fame during opening ceremonies of the 2017 NAFA World Series at Northend Softball Complex, Thursday night. Whitson umpired in 12 NAFA World Series, along with umpiring for the Amateur Softball Association, along with over 30 years umpiring high school girls and college women’s softball. He will also be inducted into the St. Paul Old Timers Softball Association Hall of Fame in October. Photo By BOB OTTO / 2017 NAFA World Series

    It was a special night for umpire Cliff Whitson as his fellow umpires honored him with high praise during his NAFA Hall of Fame induction at Northside Softball Complex in Fargo.

    “I was so pleased he asked me to introduce him,” said NAFA umpire and friend Steve Vail. “We go back 15 to 20 years and I’ve never met an umpire more dedicated to softball than Cliff.”

    CHASE SHORTLY, catching for Minnesota Computers / Coasters Beer Garden, was one of the few women to play in the NAFA World Series. In 2017 as a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. She had 40 RBI (tied for the team lead), hit four home runs and 20 doubles. Photo By BOB OTTO / 2017 NAFA World Series, Fargo, N.D.

    CHASE SHORTLY proved that athletic and talented women can play fastpitch right alongside the men as she did catching for Minnesota Computers / Coasters Beer Garden in the A-Major World Series. She has caught for the ball club throughout the season, including league play in St. Paul.

    This veteran fastpitch player was teaching a young man the mechanics of pitching during the 2017 NAFA World Series. Within 10 minutes he was throwing to a catcher and with good form. Photo By BOB OTTO

    Hopefully he’s a quick learner and soon will be playing in the NAFA World Series. Fastpitch certainly needs more young men like him learning to pitch.

    ENEAS ERBES records the Bown Fastpitch NAFA A-Major championship game against R.M. Kurtz of Ephrata, Penn. Perhaps to show his countrymen in Argentina how the NAFA World Series was being played. ERBES earned All-World honors for helping Bowen Fastpitch go undefeated and claim the title. Photo By BOB OTTO / 2017 NAFA World Series, Fargo, N.D.

    Though he was busy playing for Bowen Fastpitch, ENEAS ERBES, of Argentina took time to rush over to a table on the third base side and check his shoe-held smart phone to make sure it was recording the championship game.

    Boston, Mass. SeaDogs pitcher EVAN LYNDAKER, 23, pitched in the NAFA 23-Under World Series, helping Seadogs reach the semifinals. He had a 1-1 pitching record, and batted .400 with 2 RBI and 4 walks. Photo By BOB OTTO

    When I talked with EVAN LYNDAKER, 23, he was enthused about the game of fastpitch and was pleased to once again compete for a 23-Under Division championship.

    In 2016, he was selected the Most Valuable Player for helping the SeaDogs of Boston win the 23-Under title.

    From Groghan, NY, Lyndaker started pitching at 14 all because he saw one spectacular performance he has always remembered.

    “On my dad’s team, I saw Scott Kuloster pitch a perfect game,” he said. “I’ve been hooked on pitching ever since.”

    The SeaDogs didn’t win a 23-Under championship this year, but Lyndaker had himself two productive tournaments.

    Pitching for the East Coast Renegades in the A Division, he was 1-1, and in the 23-Under he had a 2-1 record.

    In the A Division he beat the Saskatoon, Canada, Padres, 9-2, on a five-hitter with seven strikeouts and didn’t allow any earned runs.

    Lyndaker pitched a strong game against eventual A Division runner-up Duluth Fastpitch, but lost 3-1; and again, he didn’t allow any earned runs, while giving up just five hits with seven strikeouts.

    At the plate, he really excelled, batting .455 (5-for-11) with an RBI and three runs.

     

    NAFA holds annual meeting at World Series in Fargo

    Written by Bob on August 25th, 2017

    FARGO – During the 2017 North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) World Series, the organization held its national meeting with Executive Director Benjie Hedgecock calling the meeting to order.

    Clark Evans took minutes and lunch was served by the Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Bureau.

      ROLL CALL

    Executive Committee members present were Benjie Hedgecock, Loren Lathrop, Mike Watson (by telephone), Jon kegel, Mike Oehlke, Rich Quigley, Kris Russom and Clark Evans.

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    Highly rated family garage a NAFA World Series champion

    Written by Bob on August 24th, 2017

    First baseman and manager, Jim Washenberger, admires the first place trophy presented to him after Len’s Automontive of St. Paul, Minn. won the NAFA A Division World Series championship. Photo By ANNE SATTERLEE

    ST. PAUL, Minn. – On West 7th Street in St. Paul, there’s a small garage, family owned, called Len’s Automotive.

    It’s owned and run by the Washenberger’s – mother Gail and sons Jim and Dave.

    An Internet search reveals that Len’s Automotive has a 5.0 out of 5.5 star rating. Pretty impressive and a symbol of excellence.

    But Len’s does much more than provide excellent automotive service. They play some pretty good men’s fastpitch softball too.

    First a little background.

    Brothers Jim and Dave attended Cretin-Derham Hall High School where they played baseball. After graduating, the boys took up softball – the slowpitch variety. (Hold the booing, please.)

    All the while, there friends who were playing fastpitch, would stop by the garage and badger them to “give up lob ball,” said Joe Ganther, friend and fellow softball player.

    “Finally,” said Ganther, “Paul Buzicky and George “Buzzy” Connors made Jim a late convert to the sport in 2000 when he was already in his mid-30s. After his first game, he was hooked.”

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    Inspired Len’s Automotive defeats Duluth Fastpitch to claim NAFA A Division World Series

    Written by Bob on August 24th, 2017

    2017 NAFA A Division World Series Champion Len’s Automotive of St. Paul, Minn. includes back row from left, Alex Farber, shortstop and NAFA A MVP, West St Paul;  Pat Hoban, right-field, St. Paul; Joe Ganther, pitcher, NAFA A Honorable Mention, Apple Valley; Tim Schuhwerck, pitcher and co-Most Outstanding Pitcher, St. Paul; Justin Olson, first base, St. Paul; Jim Washenberger first base and manager, St. Paul; Nick Leach, third base, Burnsville. Front Row, from left, Corey Noren, catcher and NAFA A Honorable Mention, St. Paul; Willie Faricy, second base and NAFA A All-World, Rosemount; Dave Zschokke, catcher, Little Canada; Chad Washenberger, pitcher and NAFA A All-World, St. Paul;  Kyle Pobanz, centerfielder and NAFA A All-World, St. Paul, and Chris Bogie, left-fielder, St. Paul. Photo By ANNIE SATTERLEE

    FARGO – At the start of the season, Len’s Automotive was searching for some sort of positive message that would unite and inspire the team in every game, in every inning.

    Kyle Pobanz and Nick Leach fashioned just the right slogans for the St. Paul squad to rally around.

    “The start for each day was Kyle Pobanz telling the team, “why not us, why not now,” said Joe Ganther, who pitches and plays the infield. “And the rally cry for every inning was Nick Leach bellowing, “we’re winning every inning!”

      DOMINATING PERFORMANCE

    Len’s Auto responded to the inspiring mantras by rolling through the NAFA A Division World Series undefeated and defeating Duluth Fastpitch, 5-1, in the title game at Northside Softball Complex, Sunday, Aug. 20.

    Len’s clung to a 1-0 lead in the early going before breaking the game open with three runs in the fourth inning and a solo in the sixth.

    In the fourth, Justin Olson got the offense started with a single, followed by Willie Faricy’s double and Nick Leach’s hit, with all three batsmen driving in a run.

      RELIEVER PUTS THE FIRE OUT

    Duluth responded by loading the bases in the sixth on two hit batters and a single. A third hit batter brought in a run, but Tim Schuhwerck, called on to relieve starter Chad Washenberger, stopped the hemorrhaging by spinning a drop ball and getting a double play to end the inning.

    Len’s got the run back in its half of the sixth on Olson’s sacrifice fly to deep centerfield that sent Pat Hoban trotting home. Hoban opened the inning with a triple to the base of the right-field fence.

    Schuhwerck hurled a clean seventh and after his last pitch, Len’s Auto commenced to celebrating. In the previous five years of competing in the World Series, the highest Len’s Auto had ever finished was ninth.

    Living up to Pobanz and Leach’s slogans surely helped in an inspirational way, but to win NAFA championships takes skillful gloves, arms and bats.

      LINEUP OF TOUGH OUTS

    “We’ve always been strong on defense and pitching,” said first baseman and manager Jim Washenberger, “it’s the backbone of the team. But our hitting got hot here.”

    Click to continue reading “Inspired Len’s Automotive defeats Duluth Fastpitch to claim NAFA A Division World Series”

     

    NAFA selects AA-division top performers for world series honors

    Written by Bob on August 22nd, 2017

    By BENJIE HEDGECOCK
    NAFA Executive Director

    The top performers in the 2017 NAFA AA World Series. BJ Hunhoff, Greg Cascaes and Peter Reimer of the Kegel Knights Old Timers; Braden Arcand, Keagan Arcand, Bryn Redhead, Wyatt Berube of the Calahoo Chiefs; John Wilson, Aaron Davis, Jon Gwizdala and Kyle Riemenapp of Willkomm Mobil / Optimum Crush; Jake Dalton and Chris Bambanek of Hennager Plumbing & Heating; Craig Geisler of ECL Bronx; Chris Brams, Surrey Rebels. (some missing from picture) Photo By BOB OTTO

    FARGO – The NAFA AA World Series saw exceptional athletes perform outstanding feats on the fastpitch field, but some reached even greater heights, and were honored at post-tournament ceremonies.

    MOST VALUABLE PITCHER
    Joel Cooley, Kegel Knights Old Timers

    MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
    Lucas Goring, Kegel Knights Old Timers

    ALL-WORLD TEAM

    Calahoo Chiefs KEAGAN ARCAND batted .350 (7-for-20) with 7 RBI and 2 home runs to help the Calahoo Chiefs finish second in the NAFA AA World Series. Arcand was selected to the NAFA AA All-World team. Photo By BOB OTTO / 2017 NAFA World Series, Fargo, ND

    KEGEL KNIGHTS OLD TIMERS, FARGO, ND
    BJ Hunhoff, Kegel
    Greg Cascaes, Kegel
    Pete Reimer, Kegel

    CALAHOO CHIEFS, ALBERTA, CA
    Braden Arcand
    Keagan Arcand
    Bryn Redhead
    Wyatt Berube

    WILLKOMM MOBIL / OPTIMUM CRUSH, WI
    John Wilson
    Aaron Davis
    Jon Gwizdala
    Kyle Riemenapp

    HENNAGER PLUMBING & HEATING, LAKE CRYSTAL, MN
    Jake Dalton
    Chris Bambanek

    ECL BRONX, SASKATCHEWAN, CA
    Craig Geisler

    SURREY REBELS, British Columbia, CA
    Chris Brams

     
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