Adult softball league champs end season on high note

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The Smoking Bunts won the championship of the adult summer softball league. Photo by Dick Dornan / TMT

The Smoking Bunts capped an undefeated season Sunday with a 6-5 victory over the Topanga Hawks to win the Malibu Adult Softball League for the second year in a row. Eight teams competed every Sunday afternoon starting July 10, coming to Bluffs Park in search of a fun time while playing a competitive game of softball. Featuring a roster of 12 players from Malibu, the San Fernando Valley and the Westside areas, The Smoking Bunts finished 8-0 to take home a crown that manager Patrick Levenson desperately wanted.

“For so many years my team struggled not only to win, but to compete,” Levenson said after his team came from behind to knock off the Hawks in walk-off fashion. “It’s such an awesome feeling to know we’ve won back-to-back championships.”

Levenson, a 2009 Pepperdine University graduate, formed his team four years ago. He credits the team’s chemistry as a major reason for their success, as well as their skill level.

“We play well together as a team,” Levenson, 23, said. “We’ve played together for a few years so we know each other pretty well. We hit and play well defensively too.”

In a recent game against the Shredders, Joe Ratsch connected on a massive three-run home run over the left field fence that propelled his team to victory. Ratsch lives in Wisconsin but is working near Malibu for the summer.

“It’s my first time playing here and it’s been great. I grew up playing baseball and I love softball,” Ratch said. “The home run felt good, too.”

Teammate Monique Strong, the starting pitcher for The Smoking Bunts, just finished her sixth season in the league. She played softball as a youth and was a member of her softball team at Birmingham High School in Lake Balboa.

“We have great teamwork and everyone is here to have fun,” Strong said. “I love playing pitcher and anywhere that I am needed.”

While some teams target the championship, others come together each Sunday for the fellowship and camaradarie that result from playing a team sport.

Mike Shubert has played for the Shredders since the league’s inception in 2004. Last year, Shubert was faced with the task of rebuilding the team after a majority of the players left for various reasons. Shubert’s daughter, Ashley, had been volunteering in local sober living halfway houses. She proposed inviting people she worked with who were recovering from alcohol and substance abuse problems to join the team. Using a team sport as a tool for recovery has been rewarding for both the players, as well as Shubert and his daughter, Ashley.

“It’s really nice for them. It’s the ultimate.” Shubert said. “Not only do they have a commitment to what they have to do, now they have a team to commit to.”

Ashley, a 2009 graduate of Malibu High School, said she loves being part of a team that has developed close friendships.

“It’s unique to us because we spend a lot of time out here together so it’s like a bonding experience,” Ashley Shubert said. “This season is particularly nice because most of our team are people that are in recovery. It’s a really good thing for them to come out and have an activity for them to do.”

“This is unbelievable to come out here and play with my buddies,” Shredder player Danny Martin said. “I love playing here every Sunday. Probably like Tuesday or Wednesday, I start getting excited.”

The games would not be possible without the efforts of Joel Hunt, the league’s lone umpire. Now in his third year working in the league, Hunt umpires all four games each Sunday by himself.

“It’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy it,” Hunt said. “These people are really super. They are pretty good at playing and they are very well-mannered. It’s a relaxing atmosphere, especially playing in this weather. You can’t complain about this job.”

Levenson said the climate and the location have made for a dream summer softball season.

“It’s awesome. You just can’t beat the weather,” Levenson stated. “We get to play overlooking the ocean.”

Fall adult softball begins on September 11 and will run through October 30. People interested in playing can contact Amy Crittenden at 310.317.1364 or email her at acrittenden@malibucity.org.