By Maren Angus
The So Cal Independent Fastpitch League celebrated its 10th anniversary as an organized men’s fastpitch league this year. Originally founded as a 501 (c)(3), the SCIFL has steadily been keeping competitive men’s travel ball alive and well in sunny Southern California.
“I average between six to 10 teams and sometimes even more according to the tournament,” said Jesse Ortiz, who has been commissioner of the league since 2015.
The league is divided into two divisions, Alliance and Master’s. The Master’s division is for anyone 40 years of age and older and follows the rules and guideline of the North American Faspitch Association (NAFA). The Alliance is considered an open classification that means any team can participate. Only teams who regularly participate in the tournaments as an Alliance team can qualify for the NAFA World Series.
Each division plays one tournament a month starting in March and ending in August. The SCIFL also hosts a regional qualifier for the NAFA World Series in Las Vegas in April.
“The qualifier is where we pull teams from everywhere,” said Ortiz. “Next year we have teams coming from Argentina, Mexico, Canada, I don’t know if the Venezuelans are coming back or not but those are just a few.”
The SCIFL has put a focus on growing the Alliance division in the Southern California region but according to Ortiz, it takes a special kind of determination for younger men to step off of the baseball diamond and onto the softball field.
“The players who are able to come out and adjust and who like the challenge of the game will go ahead and play,” said Ortiz. “Ones who get frustrated and can’t hit the ball consistently tend to move away from it quickly and move to slow pitch. For me, slow pitch is a different kind of ballgame and it’s a different game than fastpitch.”
Men’s fastptich is definitely not easy. The rubber is 46 feet from home plate and some pitchers can reach the mid-80’s on a radar gun. That’s not a lot of reaction time.
Some guys come in and struggle in the beginning but continue to push just like any other sport and with that comes bigger opportunities. For example, USA Softball has Junior Men and Men’s National Team.
Ortiz and others involved with the SCIFL have a target audience of former baseball players when it comes to finding new athletes to grow the league.
“The baseball players will probably have an easier time being able to see the ball and hit the ball,” said Ortiz. “They will struggle with the risers because the ball is thrown from a different level but I’ve noticed once they pick it up, they do better.”
As the clichés go if at first you don’t succeed, try again and practice makes perfect. Fastpitch softball is a way for men to continue playing the diamond sport they love just with a bigger ball and shorter base paths.