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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | WEST COUNTY / OXNARD

Wacky Softball Brings Out Youths' Best

November 01, 1998|JENNIFER HAMM

The rules were zany but the intention serious.

More than 40 Oxnard youths stepped up to the plate Saturday to try their hand in a Wacky Softball Tourney organized by the Police Activities League to help at-risk youths get back on track.

"This really allows them to be involved with athletics, adults, mentoring and team building," said Ray Lopez, the league's president.

Quirky rules like running the bases backward and skipping from base to base were put in place to level the playing field.

"In this sort of environment, the rules are designed so nobody can be a superstar and everyone has a chance to have a good time," said Ted England, vice president of the police group.

And that is just what they did. Six teams battled it out in the morning and the top two squared off in the afternoon. Planners also saw to it that each youngster went home with a medal.

Fourteen-year-old Brenda Nevarez said she is thankful for events like the softball tournament.

"I've been through so much trouble," said Brenda, adding that she used to fight at school. "I wouldn't want to go back."

Brenda even scored a run for her team. Although her squad lost, she didn't mind. The high school freshman said she didn't play just to win.

"It's fun here," she said.

The benefit of working together as a team is the lesson Brenda said she would remember.

League officials understand the negative stereotypes Oxnard youth can have of law enforcement. But on the field, those attitudes seemed to disappear.

"They're laughing and joking," said tournament coordinator Skip Sanchez of the teenagers. "They see them in a different light."

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