Photos and story by Herman Delgado
Growing up in the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s, I still remember going out to the Paisano park, Delta park, and the best one of all, Memorial Park, to watch fast pitch softball games.
There were numerous teams back in those days, and there was so much talent amongst the teams, but the most notable position on the field was the pitcher. Fast pitch softball was not about who could hit homeruns or make spectacular double plays, it was about who was pitching for whom, and how fast could he throw and make the ball move. The pitcher on every team was treated like a local celebrity and some were even paid to come in and pitch for a certain team, especially during big tournaments in El Paso.
Those days are long gone, but the memories are still with me. Those memories were brought back to life when I stopped by all the old parks. A few have been renamed (Delta is now Memo Villareal Park and Paisano is now Jimmy Ochoa Park). I even ran into several old-timers that I grew up watching as a kid, and it brought back memories of watching them as a kid. One of those men is Enrique “Kiki” Bejarano who used to be a pitcher, and boy could he throw and make that ball move.
Bejarano is no longer making that ball whiz by the plate, but he is actively involved as the president of El Paso Fast Pitch League, along with the help of his vice president, Richie “Minute” Solis, and director of operations, David “Pitufo” Pineda. The league currently has six teams, all games are on Sunday and there are six games throughout the day going on at both parks, which sit across the street from each other.
This committee is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the field, so Bejarano, Solis and Pineda are there by 6 a.m. every Sunday to prepare the fields and have them ready for the day’s games. The umpires are paid $20-$25 per game, and each player on each team pays the City of El Paso Parks and Recreation Department a $10 fee to participate.
There has been a decline in El Paso men’s fast pitch softball during the last few years. Many young players coming out of high school are opting to play slow-pitch softball.
“Many of these young players don’t want to learn to pitch, so they go to slow-pitch to concentrate on hitting the ball out of the park…it’s all about hitting homeruns,” Solis said. “These high school kids, who play baseball, should come out here and play fast pitch to maintain their timing and challenge themselves to hitting a 60-70 mph fastball. This will help them a lot more than playing slow-pitch, especially if they plan on continuing with their baseball careers.”
David Campa, 50, who pitches for Primos Sports Club, stays very active and involved in the game of softball. Campa has played fast pitch softball for over 25 years. He started out as a short-stop, but he has been pitching for the last 20 years.
“I get more recognition for the game of fast pitch softball by coaching and teaching young ladies in high school or in college the art of pitching,” said Campa. “As for myself, I see me playing and being around this game for another 30 years!”
Currently there are six teams in the league: Primos Sports Club, El Paso Park Inn, West Texas, Chaparral Cabinets, Banditz and Outsiders. All teams are self-sponsored. There are currently three women pitching in this league, and the minimum age to play in this league is 14 years old. The season consists of 10 games. There are three seasons in a year.