Roger Hovey places numbers on replica of Fernando Valenzuela’s Dodgers jersey (photo by Bill Swank)

People have joked that my office is the food court at the Morena Boulevard Costco. I have certainly enjoyed meeting many interesting people under the red and white Kirkland umbrellas.

Last month, I was approached by a friendly woman who had previously overheard me talking baseball. Since I was alone at this time, she asked if I was a Padres fan. That’s all it took to start a lengthy conversation about baseball, Clairemont and life.

Sally Pisani and her sister, Joanie, were originally Yankees fans from New Jersey. Their grandfather was a tailor and grandmother made costumes for Broadway plays. When the girls were young, their mother taught them to sew and make clothes for themselves. Mom sold custom drapery, slipcovers and had an embroidery shop. Their brother operates a custom auto upholstery business in New Jersey. Sewing is part of the family DNA.

Because of my interest in baseball, Sally told me that she sewed custom jerseys for Roger Hovey.

Roger Hovey!

I’ve known Roger for over 30 years. He made some jerseys for my youngest son, Billy, when he was a little boy back in the 1980s. Roger was the manager at the Sports Fan in Fashion Valley Center. I hadn’t seen Roger in years, but always remembered him, because he was such an extraordinarily nice guy.

It was a surprise to learn that he lives in Clairemont, so we got together to renew acquaintances.

Roger bought Sports Fan in 1992 and sold it to Sports Fever in 2000. He continued to work at their new Fashion Valley location specializing in custom products.

Roger Hovey and Billy Swank outside the Sports Fan in 1988 (photo by Bill Swank)

Originally from Orange County, Roger began working at Sports Fan as a college student in 1983. After graduation with a degree in business from San Diego State, he was offered a job with Microsoft in Seattle. He decided instead to stay in San Diego… a decision he has never regretted.

Today, he describes himself as a “cancer treatment” survivor. Cancer changed his life and now Roger operates a successful business personalizing sports jerseys.

He hand cuts every letter and design for accuracy and authenticity. The process can include several trips, especially when multiple colors are used. Eventually, Roger places the completed letters and designs on the jersey and they are ready for the final sewing.

There have been many “sewing highlights” in his career. He made a 1976 Padres jersey for Cy Young winner Randy Jones that he wore when he threw the first pitch of the 2016 MLB All-Star Game at Petco Park.

Dave Winfield presented a Sports Fan replica of his Padres jersey to President George W. Bush.

Odell Beckham, Jr. became known for swapping jerseys with former NFL players. Roger made the Viking replica that Randy Moss swapped with Junior in 2016.

It was a surprise when Dan Fouts called to request a replica Chargers jersey. “It’s quite an honor to make custom jerseys for Hall of Fame players,” he said.

He is currently customizing a dozen jerseys for the San Diego Padres…

“The Gulls have been good for business since their return to San Diego in 2015,” he said. “They have great fans. The Gulls wear commemorative jerseys for St. Patrick’s Day, Breast Cancer Awareness and Veterans Day and their fans want to wear customized jerseys to the games.”

He also made jerseys for the San Diego Seals professional lacrosse team.

Roger is proud and appreciative of the women who sew for him. Judy DeWalt of El Cajon has been with for him for 25 years. When Lilia Scribner retired, he was able to utilize Sally’s skills as her replacement.

Sally Pisani sews letters on House of David baseball jersey (photo by Bill Swank)

Thirty years ago, Sally also had a life-changing experience of her own. The former middle school science teacher and collegiate athletic trainer was severely disabled when a car crossed the center divider on State Route 67 and hit her head-on. Recovery and rehabilitation were slow as she had to relearn motor skills. Sewing, in particular, requires careful hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills

Roger knew Sally from church and knew she could sew. She describes herself as, “just a seamstress.”

Roger doesn’t agree. “She is a perfectionist and takes great pride in her work,” he says. “She is very precise and methodical in everything she does. She even ties both ends of the underthread (bobbin thread) inside the jersey for a very finished look. She has to do everything right. It’s just the way she is.”

“And it wasn’t easy for her to relearn how to sew,” he added

Hovey is a perfectionist, too. Sports Fan has a well-earned reputation for quality. Their motto is “Jerseys done correctly – one at a time.” Over the years, Judy, Lilia and Sally have all played a very important role in that success.

Sometimes they can be challenged, especially when sewing names on the back of a jersey. The longest name they have done is Louangxaysongkham.

Personally, it was wonderful to reconnect with Roger after all these years.

My mother, who made our draperies and slipcovers with her Singer sewing machine, was a Girl Scout leader. Meeting Sally and reconnecting with Roger reminded me of a verse from one of the Girl Scout songs.

“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold…”

Email: Bill@ClairemontTimes.com

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