Recreation softball opens |

Recreation softball opens

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Winter-like storms didn’t subside for the opening of Little League, Babe Ruth and High Sierra softball, but spring finally arrived for the opening of the city of South Lake Tahoe Parks and Recreation softball season Monday night.

Ten minutes before the first pitch in the Monday Coed League players were stretching muscles tightened from months of inactivity, puffing on a final cigarette and reacquainting themselves with their softball friends.

“We’re gonna have some fun. That’s all I’m out here to do,” said Gary Dilling of Turn 3.

Youth baseball and softball leagues have been snakebitten by spring snowshowers during the opening two weeks of their seasons. South Lake Tahoe’s softball leagues were orginally supposed to begin last week, but Dede Lehnhardt, recreation supervisor, decided to give the weather another week to clear and the players an additional week to get ready.

“Everybody is so ready and I’m looking forward to it,” said Lehnhardt, who is beginning her second season of overseeing the softball leagues.

One of Monday’s early arrivals is one of the most recognizeable and influential men in town in the spring and summer — umpire Poncho Morales. Like the anxious players warming up in front of him, Morales was excited for his seventh season of umpiring softball to begin.

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“The first night usually is the best. You get all of these smiling faces,” Morales said. “Some of these people you don’t see all year until summertime.”

Lehnhardt has made few changes to the three-month season. The Recreation Coed League has expanded to 15 teams, necessitating two nights of plays per week. The league has dropped its competitive coed division.

In addition, Men’s D and C leagues play on Thursday and Friday nights, respectively. Lehnhardt has some advice for teams making final roster moves.

“It’s a long season, so it’s good for teams to definitely have a lot of players. It helps cover for vacation time and burnout,” she said.

Despite the unfavorable reviews Morales will receive in the months ahead, there are few places he’d rather be in the evenings.

“I love softball. If I wasn’t an umpire, I’d be playing,” he said. “They get on me if I make a mistake, but they get over it. I’m going to see some of them at Raley’s tomorrow.

“I have no points to prove. I’m just doing a simple job.”

Morales has umpired hundreds of city softball games over the years. To date, he hasn’t tossed a player.

“I don’t believe in that. It’s up to the coach to calm their players down,” Morales said.

Meanwhile, the Douglas County Parks & Recreation softball season is two weeks away.

Team registration is down, causing supervisor Traci Dill to consider scaling back to two leagues. Four teams have registered for the women’s league and three teams are booked for coed play. Several years ago, Dill had as many as 16 teams for three leagues.

Only two clubs have signed up for the Thursday Night Men’s League, putting the division perilously close to the chopping block.

“I’m still open to teams in any league,” Dill said. “If we can a couple more (men’s teams), I can pull in two other teams.”

Dill is hopeful that some nice weather and the start of the softball season in California will add teams to her leagues.

“Most of the people here live in California so it’s easier for them to play there instead of at Zephyr Cove Park,” Dill said.