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Thursday, March 13, 2014


REMEMBRANCE FOR A FALLEN PLAYER—By Jim Tosches, author of “The Rules Abide,” happened Sunday in a game I umpired that I wasn't quite prepared for. It had nothing to do with baseball and in another way, it had everything to do with baseball.

You see, on Sundays I have the honor and pleasure of working a very special amateur baseball league that plays its games in an unbelievably beautiful setting on Coronado Island in San Diego, on a gem of a field on a quarter-mile wide sandy strip of land known as The Silver Strand. It’s an age 55 and over senior league, but frankly most players are 60+ and many well into their 70s. The quality of play is no different than any amateur league in that in the end, the team that doesn't beat itself usually comes out ahead - of course!   The guys take the game seriously, but there's also no doubt they're all well aware that the outcome is not as important as the gift of still being able to play baseball from the neck up the way they always have. What time has taken from their athleticism, the heart has recompensed.  Sore limbs and aching muscles are usually no match for the will to hit, field, throw, slide, and yes, even dive for the baseball on occasion. But sometimes, too much is just too much, as it was on Sunday.  While working on a shutout in the 4th inning, after firing a strike, the pitcher took a woozy step off the mound, went down to a knee and collapsed. After the immediate attention from a few players with medical training and the extended efforts of the quick-to-arrive paramedics, about thirty minutes later, the gentleman was pronounced dead right there on the field. A life ended at age 57 on a pristine summer-like March day, under blue sky, the sailboats silently dotting the harbor beyond left field, teammates and opponents silently milling about the field.

Shortly after the reality of the situation was apparent, players from both teams joined in a circle for the impromptu memorial and it didn't take long for the sentiment to surface that the deceased died doing what he loved, and we should all be so lucky to go that way when our time comes. I suppose medical professionals see these dramas everyday but for me, it was sad, shocking and surreal to see a guy playing baseball one minute and lying lifeless in the next. You often hear stories about how life is precious, which I think we all know on one level, but on another, our awareness is dominated by the more practical matters that compete for our utmost attention. Indeed, it isn't easy to maintain balance and keep everything in perspective. No, we can’t enjoy every moment, but we certainly should try to and, more than that, find the time to follow our passions any way we can. The thing that happened Sunday had nothing to do with baseball, but in some way, it had everything to do with it.

Please say a quick prayer for the pitcher, try to notice the beauty in each day, and if you're ever visiting San Diego, stop by The Strand on Sunday and catch a few innings of some old-school baseball.

Author of this post is Jim Tosches, an umpire in the North County Mens Senior Baseball League in San Diego, CA.  Check his blog for his love of the game.  The book he penned earlier this year was featured in Pillar to Post and worth reading.   Find Jim’s blog at

Cerveceros 55+ hardball team won its first North County Mens Senior Baseball League pennant in October 2013. Mr. Ruben Encinas is standing in the top row, far left.
The following appeared on the league website and was not part of Tosches essay.
Re: The Player
NCMSBL mourns the passing of Ruben Encinas

Posted on March 10, 2014 by Doug Johnson, league president.

The North County Men’s Senior Baseball League mourns the passing of Ruben Encinas, a player on the 55+ Cerveceros Baseball Club. Ruben passed away Sunday March 9th while pitching for the Cerveceros. Ruben was born April 20, 1956. He played for several teams in Tecate & Tijuana. Most recently, he played in the Baja California State Championship game held in Mexicali. Ruben played for the Cerveceros for two years. He was always quick with a smile or laugh. Very seldom did he complain about anything. Ruben truly love playing the game of baseball. Our thought and prayers are with the Encinas family and friends, the Cerveceros Baseball Club, and the entire NCMSBL baseball family. If you would like to make a donation in support of Ruben’s family, please contact Silvia Encinas Estrada 760-230-0229.

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