It’s softball for guys with soft hearts.
How else to explain that bunch over at the La Costa 35 Athletic Club? It’s proving once again that it gives better than it receives.
LC35, a softball and flag football league for those north of age 35, presents Swing With Your Heart on Sept. 3. The dough raised from the softball tournament aids a community member and that’s how this organization rolls.
“We’ve been doing this for at least 30 years,” said Steve Collo, the big cheese at LC35. “We’re a close-knit group of guys and we are always trying to help each other out.”
LC35’s generosity travels. Its popular poker tournament funnels cash to the Carlsbad Boys & Girls Club. The most recent take was over $50,000 for the kids and Collo promises it’ll be larger this year. We won’t argue with the LC35 president.
LC35 also sprinkles funds toward everything in Carlsbad from Pop Warner to Special Olympics. These players with gloves out to shield the weekend sun are a hit in extending a hand throughout the area.
Nobody can argue with that, or this year’s SWYH recipient, Jamie Villalpando. He’s umpired LC35 games for years, but this year, he’s been absent. His mother’s battling numerous medical issues, which require around-the-clock attention.
“He can’t come out and umpire anymore,” Collo said. “They really can’t afford to pay for the 24/7 care so we’re going to try and help out.”
Which brings us to the Sept. 3 shindig, which features a jumpy-jump and face-painter for the children and catered tacos for all. It’s open to LC35 members and non-members; Carlsbad residents and non-residents.
Basically if you have a mitt and a sense of caring, stop in and help the Villalpando family.
Collo knows how significant the SWYH can be. The LC35 put its arms around Collo 15 years ago, when his son, Ryan, was in a serious motorcycle accident.
“All these people just stepped up to help Ryan and our family,” Collo said. “It was just so cool and touching. It’s a great feeling to know people will step out of their world to help other people.”
Blayne Graves, a veteran LC35 umpire, brought Villalpando’s plight to the LC35’s attention. Graves has no problem calling the LC35 gesture as he sees it.
“It says a lot about the loyalty of the people in the league to their own,” Graves said. “Once you’re in the league, it’s like you are a lifetime member.”
Sundays at Stagecoach Park are always a hit, regardless of what the scoreboards reveal in one of Carlsbad’s top-shelf recreation facilities.
It’s easy to tell when LC35 softball is in the air. It’s not the sound of the ball hitting the bat, it’s more the aroma from the BBQ. Jack Allegretti handles the grill like a grounder up the middle. He’s a rover on the diamond and a mainstay by the vittles he prepares weekly.
But it’s what’s left behind that counts, and on that count, the LC35 is perfection. There’s never trash or a stray beverage container misplaced. In fact the players started collecting recyclable cans for a needy friend of LC35 and he purchased a truck from the proceeds.
That’s a lot of cans. But there’s a lot of Sunday, fun days, that for some is far from a day of rest.
Collo and crew are busy with SWYH.
“It’s important to be there for each other, whether that’s a hand shake or somehow giving our support,” Collo said. “If we can put together an event like Swing With Your Heart, it’s huge for us.”
Spoken like a true Mr. Softie.
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @jparis_sports.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly.