Monday, June 25, 2018
Sports

International Softball Federation creating memories in Plant City

PLANT CITY — After umpiring softball for 30-plus years, Tim Williams pretty much figured he had seen it all. But nothing compared to a January afternoon earlier this year.

Williams, positioned just off second base, watched as a centerfielder tracked a ball heading toward the fence. The outfielder, back to home plate, turned and sprinted while trying to gauge the proximity of the fence and follow the flight of the ball.

The man leapt at full extension, parallel to the ground, and caught the ball over his shoulder just before crashing to the grass and rolling into the fence.

It would have been a remarkable catch by anybody.

It was even more so because the outfielder was missing a leg and an arm.

"It was one of the most amazing things I'd ever seen on a softball field," Williams, 55, said of the catch made by the former soldier with a prosthetic arm and leg. "Truly inspirational."

"I couldn't even make the out call. All I could do was applaud."

Williams umpired the Wounded Warriors against the Fellowship of Christian Athletes all stars that day, but it's just one snapshot from a scrapbook of memories he's compiled at the Plant City Softball Stadium and Randy Larson Four Plex.

The sprawling 75-acre facility east of downtown is one of the premier softball complexes in the nation.

"It's a great facility that I think is without equal," International Softball Federation president Don Porter said. "When we moved our headquarters here in 2000, there were a number of big cities on the final list and this facility and Plant City were simply superior."

The ISF, softball's worldwide governing body, relocated from Oklahoma City in 2000 after Plant City won out over Dallas, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Long Beach and Palm Springs, Calif. The city offered to remodel Plant City Stadium, which had been the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds, as well as renovate office space for the ISF.

"The city has been outstanding to work with in terms of joint projects," Porter said. "They were able to accommodate us and in turn, we want to bring various international competitions to this great area."

The ISF is still in the process of building an international hall of fame as well as a softball museum. Porter said he hopes to have both completed in the near future.

"Our initial funding didn't cover all of the costs associated with the hall of fame and museum," he said. "We're still in the process of searching for alternative funding to make that happen sooner than later."

Williams' Rolodex of memories weaves through the fabric of what has become Plant City's adopted sport. He's been afforded the opportunity to share the field with some of the world's best softball players (Jennie Finch and Dot Richardson, to name a few) as well as the local clerk at the neighborhood convenience store.

"It was an honor to walk out on to the field with Olympic gold medalists," said Williams, a 1975 Brandon High graduate. "But sometimes I'm umpiring for church leagues that are having their championship game. That means the world to them so it's just as important to me."

Williams calls himself "a traffic cop" on the field who's job it is to keep things moving without getting in the way.

"Sometimes you're out there with the big names in the sport but you never know if the recreational players out there are doctors or truck drivers. You treat them all the same and the way you would want to be treated."

Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Witness says Jameis Winston was unruly and alone in Uber

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Witness says Jameis Winston was unruly and alone in Uber

Tom Jones joins the podcast to talk about Jameis Winston's reported three-game suspension, as information from another witness has come out saying Winston was unruly and in the Uber by himself during the evening in question.Plus, the Rays sweep the b...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Ex-Bucs DE Keith McCants arrested, facing cocaine charge

Ex-Bucs DE Keith McCants arrested, facing cocaine charge

Former Alabama star and Bucs defensive end Keith McCants was arrested in St. Petersburg early Monday morning and is facing a felony charge of possession of crack cocaine, according to arrest records.McCants, 50, was arrested by the Pinellas County Sh...
Updated: 4 hours ago
What name would a new Rays stadium carry? Itís a multi-million dollar question

What name would a new Rays stadium carry? Itís a multi-million dollar question

TAMPA ó Yankee Stadium, Fenway and Wrigley are ballparks whose names are woven into the lore of Americaís national pastime.Petco Park and Guaranteed Rate Field? Not so much.The trade-off for that clunky corporate handle is typically an annual payout ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
The pros and cons of Tom Jurich as potential USF AD candidate

The pros and cons of Tom Jurich as potential USF AD candidate

Former Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich has emerged as a legitimate candidate to take over USF, as our Joey Knight reported late last week.Despite the chatter around USF and in the industry, I'm skeptical; I wouldn't be surprised if the Bulls'...
Updated: 5 hours ago
A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

TAMPA — Every year during draft season, players from the Tampa Bay area are selected in the NFL, MLB and even NBA drafts.But NHL?Sure enough, in the third round of Saturday's NHL draft, the Jets selected Nathan Smith, a forward who was born in ...
Published: 06/24/18

Sports on TV/radio for Monday, June 25

TODAYBaseballAngels at Royals4 p.m.MLBNationals at Rays7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMDiamondbacks at Marlins7 p.m.FSFYankees at Phillies7 p.m.MLBCubs at Dodgers10 p.m.ESPNCollege baseball, World SeriesBest-of-3 championship, Game 1: Oregon St. vs. Mississippi...
Published: 06/24/18
Rays season turning into good one

Rays season turning into good one

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays are not the best team in baseball. They are not going to win the World Series this year. Heck, they probably won't even make the playoffs.But I tell you what. This team is a heck of a lot of fun to watch.And ...
Published: 06/24/18
Rodney Pageís takeaways from Sundayís Rays-Yankees game

Rodney Pageís takeaways from Sundayís Rays-Yankees game

The catwalks at Tropicana Field are arguably the worst feature, but they  came in handy for the Rays on Sunday. Yankees pinch-hitter Clint Frazier hit what looked to be a ninth-inning home run that would've given them a one-run lead. Instea...
Published: 06/24/18
Rays beat Yankees in 12 innings on Jake Bauers homer

Rays beat Yankees in 12 innings on Jake Bauers homer

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays first baseman Jake Bauers sat at his locker after Sunday afternoon's 7-6, 12-inning win over the Yankees and thumbed through his text messages. There was no way he could get through them all. That's what happens when ...
Published: 06/24/18
Rays journal: Yarbrough comes through, Venters to DL, support for Ramos

Rays journal: Yarbrough comes through, Venters to DL, support for Ramos

ST. PETERSBURG — Ryan Yarbrough was only supposed to throw on Sunday if it was an emergency. In the 12th inning with the score tied 6-6 and a runner on first, there was an emergency.Jonny Venters tweaked his right hamstring trying to cover firs...
Published: 06/24/18