Base Paths ponders fast pitch of day’s past

In a time not so long ago, fast-pitch ruled men’s rec, making household words of names such as Eddie Feigner, “Shifty” Gears and Grand Islander Jon Roth. Lesser leagues accommodated those for whom “fast pitch” was relative. Base Paths never got above Class C and remembers a tardy team mate later reporting: “I knew Doug was pitching when the other team’s leadoff batter hit his first pitch under my car as I pulled in.”

Today, it’s another story, this one is told anonymously, to protect both the who and the where:

One of the surviving sellers of swift-pitch had a tournament planned for a local community. It would bring in upwards of a dozen teams, easily 150 players and fans. He went to Parks & Recreation to arrange for the diamonds.

“I’m sorry,” he was told. “We just can’t do it.”

The director thought that the community now wanted a rental fee. Fair enough. “How much do you need, then?” he asked.

“You don’t understand,” was the response. “Since we don’t have a men’s fast-pitch league of our own, we’re not allowed to have teams come in for a tournament.”

The exiles went elsewhere to play, eat, drink, shop and gas up. (The place that said “no” has a complete fast-pitch program for women.)

It’s hard to believe that one of summer’s great passions has been so totally subsumed by the more laid back slo-pitch (Base Paths has seen outfielders carrying beverages out to their positions) that at least one rec department treats it as if it were Sunday baseball a century ago.

So maybe he Niagara Region is “behind the curve” (pun intended, actually) in providing the Most Valuable Pitcher, Tom Berube from the Canadian side, to the Oswego CPI team which won the National Amateur Fastpitch Assn.’s Eastern Masters (45 and over) a couple weeks back in Wisconsin. Berube shut out Jordan Realty of Minnesota, 3-0, in the championship final.

The other half of the rotation was NU women’s softball coach and Niagara Catholic Athletic Director Larry Puzan. Overseeing that glorious Niagara-Canisius-Monroe trifecta last week, Puzan reflected on how it is that two guys from around here have to go all the way to Oswego, where the softball season is measured in hours, to “get game.”

Rochesterian Shawn Smith put the team together, Puzan said, and acquired quite a few others who join him in all-age leagues in Buffalo’s east and south towns. Actually, the team competed in both over-40 and over-45 divisions, to get a little more action for certain “youngsters.” The 40-over team finished third.

Puzan joins Berube in the pitching rotation but defers to a designated hitter. “I’d like to hit,” he said, “but my legs tell me ‘no.’”

Men’s fast-pitch, once the hottest game in town, still burns, just with a lower flame.

Signal Base Paths via pollyndoug@hotmail.com

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