Winchester Fastpitch Softball League reunion fields fond summer memories

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, May 25, 2023

For fifty years, a group of athletes from Winchester got together every spring and summer.

Earlier this month many of them reunited.

Former Winchester Fastpitch Softball League members got together at the Golden Corral on Bypass Road to meet former players, share fond memories and enjoy fellowship over a meal.

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“It really was the only fastpitch league in Kentucky when we were playing,” said Harold Lamb, a former catcher and second baseman. “We just all became friends.”

The Winchester Fastpitch Softball League met regularly, playing games at Massie Park.

At first, play lasted from May to August.

However, that eventually changed.

As time passed and the different teams, including the Royals and Hustlers, began to play others in state tournaments, the seasons were extended into September.

Many of those who participated in the state tournaments were present.

“They’re from Grant County, Orange County, Georgetown, Louisville, we’ve got people here from everywhere,” said Gary Willoughby, a former pitcher who helped organize the reunion.

While many came and went through the years, James Smith was essential to its success.

“[He] really kept the park together. He was over there for years and years,” said Jackie Stamper, a former outfielder. “He organized [games], he ran a concession stand [and] kept everything going.”

For some players, getting into softball occurred from a young age.

Lamb, who played for forty years from age 15 until 55, recalls his mother being an early influence.

“I started coming to Massie Park when I was four or five years old,” he said.

Softball in Winchester offered diverse opportunities as well.

“My mother was the best fastpitch women’s pitcher. Massie Park had the premier women’s fastpitch team back in the ’50s and 60s”, Lamb added. “A lot of the players that played fastpitch, their wives played on that team.”

While team titles were abundant, many throughout the league received individual honors.

Those present at Golden Corral were quick to point out Willie Wilcox.

Considered one of the best fastpitch softball pitchers in the area, Wilcox was a 12-time state champion.

“That’s what they say,” Wilcox said in jest. “It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it, and that’s the only reason I played.”

Those who showed up were asked to sign a poster with the league’s logo placed in the center.

By day’s end, it was complete.

The league offered many memories in the name of the team and individual accomplishments.

However, many of the alums, some of whom had not seen each other in decades, responded similarly when asked to recall their favorite memories and what they liked most.

“Back then, we played each other, but now we’re a brotherhood,” Willoughby said. “Everyone who [is] here says it was some of the best times of their life.”