Levi’s legions in Yuma sorry to see him go
YUMA, Ariz. -The Yuma Bullfrogs lost another fan favorite Aug. 7 when former South Tahoe High baseball player Levi Funderburk announced his retirement.
The decision to end his six-year pro baseball career came on the heels of the latest Bullfrogs’ roster move before the Western Baseball League’s roster deadline.
Rather than accept the Bullfrogs’ placement on the disabled list, Funderburk opted to retire for the second time so he could spend more time with his family.
“When I realized I wasn’t going to help the team during the playoffs,” Funderburk said, “it just came down to, was that worth the time I was going to be away from my family?”
Funderburk thought his minor league baseball career was over after the Chico Heat cut him loose after three seasons prior to the 2000 campaign. But Yuma picked him up and Funderburk responded by hitting .304 (seven homers, 57 RBIs) in 82 games.
“(Funderburk) was a real positive influence in the clubhouse and on the field,” Bullfrogs manager Bill Plummer said. “I felt like he felt that he didn’t perform up to his expectations.”
Funderburk rotated between designated hitter and first baseman for a majority of this season. In 60 games, he batted .265 with four homers and 25 RBIs.
“I knew this was going to be my last season of baseball, but this wasn’t how I had hoped and prayed it would end,” said the 6-foot-6 Funderburk. “I wanted to be part of a championship.”
A youth pastor in the off-season, Funderburk planned to return to his home in Chico, Calif. and spend time with his wife, Lupe, and son, Isaac.
“This is a real tough one for me, because I’ve watched Levi grow as a player and a person over the last few years,” Plummer said. “But Levi wanted to tend to a few family matters up north, so I want him to do what’s best for him.”
Funderburk was a member of the ill-fated Sierra Nevada Miners of the Golden State League in 1995 and also a member of the Reno Chukars and Chico Heat before arriving in Yuma.
Speaking to local church services and to local youth groups, Funderburk’s involvement in the community was well known. Funderburk made time for children after games, often spending 30 minutes signing autographs or having his picture taken.
The Bullfrogs even honored its fan favorite with Levi’s Legions – a special seating section for underprivileged youths bought by private and corporate donations.
So obviously Yuma fans were shocked to see Funderburk sitting in the front row of Section 3L on Aug. 7. Slowly a small number of adventurous youth and adults walked over to Funderburk and inquired about his out-of-norm street clothes.
Posed with questions like, “What happened?” and “Why are you in the stands?” Funderburk courteously fielded them one at a time.
When asked what he’ll miss about Yuma, Funderburk immediately pointed around the stands as if he were singling out every fan.
“That’s what I’ll miss most,” he said. “All the wonderful people I’ve met here.”
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