Community remembers Fields |

Community remembers Fields

Steve Yingling

They celebrated his unwavering smile, uncanny ability to levitate people, his courage and athletic feats. Several hundred people came to celebrate Todd Fields’ life on Monday on the field that bears his name in South Lake Tahoe.

The 1984 South Tahoe High star pitcher who went on to pitch at California State University, Chico died of amytrophic lateral sclerosis – commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease – on Oct. 11, his 33rd birthday.

That infectious smile earned Fields many friends, and they nearly filled the infield to pay their final respects Monday morning at Todd Fields. They could have just as easily flocked to the field to watch him pitch Monday, given the ideal conditions that existed for his memorial service.

Ray Fernsten, his former coach at South Tahoe High, recalled how Fields and his 15 teammates shattered a perfect season in 1984.

“I was at a restaurant in Reno looking at this hometown hero picture on the wall of (ex-major league pitcher) Shawn Boskie,” Fernsten recalled. “This guy, who had a son on that team, looked at me and said, ‘Did you know him?’

“‘Yeah, I coached against him.’ And he tells me, ‘Yeah, they were 29-1 his senior year.’ Then I looked at him and told him, ‘We wrecked your season that year.’

“Todd beat them that day.”

The 5-foot-8, 155-pound Fields was certainly smiling that spring day as STHS handed the Reno Huskies their only blemish on an otherwise perfect season, which culminated in a state championship, but as many family members and friends reflected Monday, that smile rarely left his lips.

“He was a winner, and that smile. No matter the situation, Todd could make you smile or laugh,” said “Doc” Bedwell, who coached Fields in youth baseball.

“I remember my first year of baseball. I was 9 and picked to play on the Braves. Todd picked me out to play catch with him. He was smiling, and it must have been because I was dumb enough to play catch with him,” said former STHS star baseball player Jon Hetherton, remembering his red, swollen catcher’s hand.

Close friend Mark Shehadi also recalled endless hours of playing pitch and catch with Fields, who made many batters miss with his fastball and complementary curveball.

“If we weren’t playing catch, we were playing whiffleball,” Shehadi said. “Todd always wanted to be the pitcher, and insisted that I always had to be the catcher. I told him to quit hitting me in the shins, but he’d do it over and over again.

“I wish I could return to his backyard and then he could hit me in the shins as much as he wants.”

Other friends talked about his tenaciousness, which reflected his ability to fight ALS seven years before succumbing.

“I remember skimboarding in Maui and seeing Todd for the first time in a while,” said friend Ron Parsons. “He looked at me, being the athlete and cocky as he was, and (the first-time skimboarder) grabbed my board. He started skimming and the board shot out and he did a back souffle. But he tried and tried again. He never gave up.”

The service concluded with his sister, Tiffany, releasing butterflies after reading her touching poem, “Butterfly Wings.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.