JIM PETERS: Former softball player organizes Portage alumni game

2013-06-19T17:00:00Z 2013-06-19T23:00:05Z JIM PETERS: Former softball player organizes Portage alumni gameJim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
June 19, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

It was the glory days of Portage High School softball, an 11-year stretch in which the Indians won seven sectionals, five regionals, two semistates and one state title.

They played with a toughness reflective of their first coach, Dave Mattix, a gruff football guy who didn't treat them like girls.

"It wasn't all about makeup back then like it is now," said Heather Gapinski, a 1997 graduate whose teams reached semistate all four years. "We had the best girls back then. It was family to me."

Time has passed, diminishing their talents just a tad, but the passion from high school still burns. Many still get their game on, playing in an area fast-pitch league, where the idea of reuniting the band originated.

"Actually, Jamie Hamilton and a couple other girls were talking, and brought up the idea of getting an alumni team together to play again," Gapinski said.

Gapinski posted an announcement on Facebook, checking to see if any Portage softball graduates between 1990 and 2000 would be interested. Not knowing what to expect, she heard from nearly 30 former Indians.

"It just exploded," Gapinski said. "Unfortunately, Tina Shaw's going to be on vacation. She asked me, 'Can you please change the date?' Everybody's so excited. Everybody wants to come back."

The game will be played at 2 p.m. July 13 at the high school field. The complex didn't even exist when some of the players from the early 90s sported the Indian tomahawk.

Back then, games were held up on the 'hill,' a large practice area between Portage West and the softball/baseball fields.

"My first year (1994) was our first year on the field," Gapinski said. "Back in our day, we wore the uniforms for years and years. I had the same uniform my sister wore before we finally got new ones."

The alumni game will give Gapinski the chance to play with her sister Debbie. The same goes for Wendy and Crystal Cannon, a pitcher-catcher battery in high school, as well as Kassey and Korey Reynolds, both pitchers.

"We've got girls now who have kids playing," Gapinski said. "Karen Creech is coaching travel ball. They built a field in their back yard."

Gapinski, who played at South Suburban College, arranged with fellow Portage grad Jason Dudley of Blythe's Sports to have shirts made. All players will wear their number from high school.

Gapinski is also trying to raise funds for additional shirts to sell, with any profits to be donated to the high school program.

"Depending how big it gets, we might do something next year," she said. "I'd really like to get something going, add other years to it."

While there are no doctors in the group, there are several nurses, in case the need for medical attention arises.

Mattix and Jeff Smith, the coach of the 2000 state champion team, Dave Reynolds and Larry Revoir have agreed to participate as coaches.

"I told (Mattix) not to get kicked out," Gapinski joked.

Plans for the game actually preceded Portage's Class 4A state championship, which turned out to be a nice coincidence.

"It couldn't have been more perfect timing," Gapinski said. "Portage softball was definitely our life back then. Winning state was something we were never able to do it, but for them to do it, it's amazing.

"For them to come together, it's great to see. Everyone's talking about it."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at James.Peters@nwi.com

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.peters@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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