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MailTribune.com
  • MEN'S FASTPITCH SOFTBALL

    Junior national team to make Medford stop

    UO head coach White will be among those playing for local teams
  • Fagone Field will replicate its vibrant heyday when the USA Softball junior men's national fastpitch team visits for two games Thursday against squads stocked with local players — in some cases, players many years the barnstormers' senior.
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    • TEAM USA GAMES
      WHAT: The USA Softball junior men's team will play against two teams of local fastpitch players as it makes its way to the world championships later this month in Canada.
      • WHEN, WHERE: T...
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      TEAM USA GAMES
      WHAT: The USA Softball junior men's team will play against two teams of local fastpitch players as it makes its way to the world championships later this month in Canada.

      • WHEN, WHERE: Thursday, 6 and 8 p.m., Fagone Field.
      • ADMISSION: $5, but youth softball and baseball players in uniform tops and former local men's fastpitch players get in free.
      • BARBECUE: From 5 to 7 p.m., free with admission.
  • Fagone Field will replicate its vibrant heyday when the USA Softball junior men's national fastpitch team visits for two games Thursday against squads stocked with local players — in some cases, players many years the barnstormers' senior.
    The games are at 6 and 8 p.m. at the venerable field, located at 701 N. Columbus Ave. They are part of a five-city tour the team of 16- to 19-year-olds is making as it heads to the International Softball Federation junior men's world championships July 11-20 in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.
    "I think it's going to be a great contrast," said Larry Binney, the event chairperson and a fastpitch icon in these parts.
    Binney is a member of the Oregon Amateur Softball Association and Medford Sports halls of fame.
    "You have the best youth players in the nation playing against local teams that have older pitchers and, obviously, other players who have played a lot of years," said Binney. "It'll be kind of a youth versus the old guard type of thing. I'm really interested to see it, personally."
    Among those who will pitch for the local teams are University of Oregon head coach Mike White, a former national team player, and Eagle Point's 75-year-old Mike Trotter, himself a member of the Oregon ASA hall who remains competitive in senior tournaments.
    The games are at Fagone — which Binney and others have spent much time and energy refurbishing — because, well, that's where it should be, he said, for the seating availability and the "nostalgia factor."
    Games were played there in the 1950s after they were moved from what later became Spiegelberg Stadium, he said. But men's play moved away at least 25 years ago, said Binney, and Fagone remained the home of the North and South Medford teams until about a half-dozen years ago.
    "That was the hotbed for softball down there for years," said Mike Wells, the state ASA commissioner.
    It was Wells who contacted Binney several months ago to see if Medford might be a host city for Team USA.
    Admission cost for the games is $5 and includes a barbecue meal. The barbecue is from 5 to 7 p.m.
    The junior team will begin batting practice at 4 p.m. The players will sign autographs between games.
    Youth softball and baseball players who wear uniform tops will get free admission and free barbecue. The same holds for former players in the old Jackson County Softball Association, a summer fastpitch league that attracted the area's best softball and baseball players.
    Team USA began the tour in Hayward, Calif., Tuesday and is in Stockton, Calif., tonight. After Medford, it plays in Salem on Friday and finishes in Fife, Wash., on Sunday.
    Here, it will first play the Southern Oregon Bandits, then the Southern Oregon Young Guns. There no longer is a fastpitch league in Southern Oregon, but there are teams of local players who compete in tournaments around the state and beyond.
    In its first competition, the national squad won a tournament in Midland, Mich., a couple weeks ago. It went 3-2, beating Reese's A's 14-7 in the championship game.
    In that contest, Junior Centeno, of Salem, Utah, hit for the cycle and went 4-for-4.
    Bryce DuCharme, of Hudson, Wis., belted a three-run home run in an eight-run fourth inning for Team USA, and Tyler Bouley, of Champlin, Minn., added a two-run shot. Phillip Zimmerman, of New Holland, Pa., got the pitching win.
    The players survived rigorous tryouts to make the team, said Wells.
    "I tell you, it's pretty good," he said of the level of play, noting that many players on the roster are from the Midwest. "I was raised in the Midwest, so I know the type of boys fastpitch that gets played back there. We played baseball and softball in the summer. It made us better baseball players."
    Binney did likewise. He played baseball at Southern Oregon University, then took up softball in the summer because there wasn't a baseball team for him to join.
    "I really think that helped me," he said. "All of a sudden you have to face a pitcher who's 46 feet away and coming at you up and down and throwing harder than people from 60 feet (roughly the pitching distance in baseball)."
    Whereas top high school girl pitchers will throw in the low to mid-60-mph range, these boys are in the low 80s, said Wells.
    Players at the highest levels, such as White and Trotter when they were younger, were in the 90s, he said.
    White guided Oregon to its best season this past spring in his fifth year. The Ducks were 56-9-1, setting a program record for victories and leading Oregon to its third Women's College World Series appearance.
    The Ducks were ranked No. 1 for the final seven weeks of the season, and he was named the Pac-12 Conference coach of the year for a second straight time. He'll be the keynote speaker at a luncheon for Team USA Thursday.
    Before retiring as a player in 2007, White pitched for USA teams that won silver medals in the Pan American Games and the bronze medal team in the 2000 world championships.
    Trotter has pitched for 60 years, said Binney, who played with and against the hard-throwing hurler.
    "That will be hard for people to believe," said Binney, "but he's still pretty tough for one game, or a few innings. He's taken really good care of his body."
    The games will kick off a big weekend of fastpitch softball in the area.
    On Friday, 33 teams will begin play in the B state tournament for girls ages 14 and under. Most of the games in the three-day tournament will be at U.S. Cellular Community Park, with a few at North Medford High.
    Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com
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