Gallery: New Coast Senior Softball League March 2015 [21 Images] Click any image to expand.
Last month I attended the Opening Day Ceremonies of the Clairemont Hilltoppers 59th Little League Season, a member of the Hilltoppers Hall of Fame (2006) was the honorary guest to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. No shortcuts or warm ups the gentleman took to the rubber and fired a strike. The pitcher Link Lincavage.
On any given Thursday if you happen to be around Bay Ho stop by the Cadman Little League Fields from around 10-noon, there is a good chance you will see a couple of the Lincavages. Frank plays shortstop cheering on the pitcher, his father Link Lincavage 92 years young. They both play in the Over 55 Senior New Coast Senior Softball League.
A few days after that ceremonial first pitch I watched Link in a pitchers duel against the Red Team. The opposing pitcher 90 years young John Rawlings. They both pitched a complete 9 inning game. The 55 Senior League is made up of retirees both male and female from all walks of life from age 62 to Link. Seeing these players run the bases with all they had on each play was quite impressive. Not one player from what I saw took a play off. I complimented Link on his playing, legging it out down the first base line on a chopper he hit. All he could say was, “I am trying I am slower, but I am still trying.”
It took me an inning or so to understand the pace of play in senior softball. With his team up at bat and Frank the 3rd base coach I had the opportunity to ask about the baselines as well as the net protecting the pitcher. Frank explained, “Safety in this league is key, you don’t run to the actual base itself, but rather to the lines where the base is. The goal avoid collisions at all cost.
When I made the observation that the nets/screens protecting the pitcher was a good idea he laughed, “Talk to Dad about that.” Turns out the protective screens were being used for the first time the day I show up. However, I did see a couple comebacks during the course of the game which did in fact protect the pitchers.
When I had the chance to ask Link about the screen his response, “I don’t like em, but things change.”
I heard from numerous players say we are just here to have fun this is non competitive. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. The fun part no doubt was evident, the noncompetitive part well, let’s just say they all had the fire in their belly to compete. There was some back and forth on balls and strikes calls. There was at least one, “time to get your eyeglass prescription checked” sarcastic comment. In the end it was all just good natured ribbing.
A week later I had the pleasure of a nice sit down conversation with Link and Frank. The story I pitched was to talk about the Hilltoppers and how Link became involved. Although when we sat down it became more than a sports story, or Hilltopper story, it was more about the game now and then with nuggets of great memories sprinkled in.
In our two plus hour conversation we talked about the type of “little league” Link played as a kid in the early 1930’s back in Pennsylvania. Everything back then was handed down from the older kids. The bats were taped together, the balls well they had seen better days too. A new ball to him and his friends was an old ball barely together. They would wrap it with black tape wrapped until it resembled something round and presto a new baseball, to them.
Back in those days if you wanted an organized game you as a preteen organized it yourself with a bunch of buddies. Gather your friends in the hopes of fielding a lineup, head out and hopefully find another group looking to do the same.
At 92, Link has a sharp memory, remembering his years while playing for the Navy softball team. One year his team won the local softball championship here in San Diego, he recalled one of his teammates from the Navy days Willie “Puddin Head” Jones. Jones he me told carved out a nice 17 year career playing major league baseball.
Frank brought out a picture of the “old neighborhood” in Bay Ho, looking at it now today you still see Cadman Elementary you still see the condo/apartments on Kamloop, and you would think well yeah things have changed. When Link saw it, he studied it got his bearings and then the history lesson.
The apartments on Kamloop used to be the local supermarket, Mayfair Market. They both discussed the old Chevron gas station at Kamloop and Moraga gone. As Link studied the picture he points out how Moraga dead ended at Moraga Ct. To go to the beach back in those days Clairemont Mesa to Clairemont to Balboa. Link saw the house he bought “original owner bought it in 1955 with a clear view of the bay.” He recalled that when we bought the house there was talk there might be a school being built in the neighborhood, nothing is set in stone but a possibility. Well the school (Cadman) was built shortly after, hello school goodbye ocean view.
Watching Link stare at that one picture, I could see it all coming back to him as if it was 60 years ago. The parking lot is just about the only thing relatively the same as six decades ago.
From the 1980’s into the 2000’s Link been playing softball all around San Diego. Even playing on a few Senior Travel teams. Playing in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Arizona and as far away as Detroit. He perked up when he thought about Detroit. The sports complex in Detroit had 12 fields something he wishes San Diego had. He remembers returning to San Diego he and his teammates trying to lobby city officials and politicians for better facilities a more central location multipurpose sports complex. No luck. He then looked at me and said, “Maybe you can help?”. My vote is for a DeAnza Cove sports complex. No development just green space, ball fields, tennis courts and more.
For a few hours in March I witnessed opening day ceremonies of young kids beginning their Little League journey. A few days later adults playing a game continuing their journey and lastly the opportunity of sitting with an elder talking about his own journey. For me, a March to remember.
In closing Link wanted me to reiterate, besides the need for new fields, we need more players in our leagues. Link Lacavage, John, Frank and all the others have proved you are never too old to play the game. Link talked about the camaraderie, the friendships, and teammates. He recalled those years playing senior softball and traveling to other cities and states. How fun it was. When all was said and done, this was not a story about Link Lincavage, it was a story about a league, a team, friends and the game of senior softball.
The fact that father and son still get to play softball together every week after all these years is like endless extra inning games.
If you are over 55 and want to play in the New Coast Senior Softball league show up on a Thursday at Cadman Field around 9 am for warm ups with your glove and $40 for year round fun. Cadman Field is located at 4280 Avati Drive, San Diego 92117
See a featured gallery of photos at www.ClairemontTimes.com