Swinging for the Stars
This year, Poway Girls Softball League (PGSL) celebrates its 50th anniversary – and there’s plenty to celebrate. With a variety of recreational and competitive programs throughout the year, PGSL offers opportunities to learn and grow for athletes of all ages and backgrounds. Players, coaches, and volunteers are looking forward to Winterball, starting this August for ages eight and up. 92064 Magazine spoke with League President Lester Wong to learn more about the league’s rich history, and how local girls turn dreams into reality with PGSL.
Q&A with Lester Wong, Poway Girls Softball League President
What is PGSL’s overall mission?
To provide a healthy, competitive environment of learning for girls to play softball.
What is the history and motivation behind PGSL?
In 1967, the league was first formed by Ellen Lopshire as a way to provide opportunities for local girls to play organized sports. For two years, it remained as an informal group of girls who played teams from other local communities. In 1969, Janet Ibach, a former semiprofessional softball player for the San Diego Slick Chicks, had a strong vision to formally organize the Poway Girls Softball League as an official organization.
How has PGSL evolved over the years?
Early 1990s: First Wave of Expansion
As PGSL entered the 1990s, Poway’s total population had increased nearly 35% to 43,516 from 32,263 a decade earlier. Because of high demand and growing interest, the league had nearly 400 registered players between the ages of 5 and 18. PGSL also sponsored several travel teams comprised of girls who played at a more competitive level at local, regional, state, and national tournaments. In 1994, under then-PGSL President Ray McKay’s leadership, the first Summer Heat Classic All-Star Softball Tournament was hosted at Tierra Bonita Elementary School, raising much-needed income for the league. Improvements were made at Midland Elementary School by removing grass and creating two dirt diamonds in the back fields and building backstops, dugouts, and batting cages.
Name: Lester Wong
Education: B.S. in Molecular Biology
Family: Wife – Sarah; Daughters – Angelica and Kora
Hobbies & Interests: Softball, softball, and softball
Late 1990s and Early 2000s: Field of Dreams Becomes a Reality
During the early years, PGSL utilized fields located at Midland Elementary School, Valle Verde Park, Lake Poway, and Garden Road Elementary. In 1998, the PGSL board members officially recognized that the league needed new fields. The Midland site was being outgrown, and there were early rumblings of a new reconstruction project that would eliminate the fields at the school. At the urging of Sharon Ward, current PGSL Equipment Manager, a New Fields Search Committee (NFSC) was appointed with initial membership comprised of Gabriel Sanchez, Gregg Brandalise, Roger Moyer, and Mike Snell. In addition, a New Fields Account was earmarked to hold monies collected that would fund the development of new fields. Meanwhile, efforts spearheaded by Gregg Brandalise were started to educate the City Council and garner support for the league’s needs.
“When you’re on a team, your teammates will always pick you up even when you’re down.” – Audrey Walton, 12U
When does the next season begin?
The next season starts in August. Regular recreational teams are formed along with more competitive teams, our Phantoms program.
What ages can participate in the league?
We have girls from 6 to 14.
What is your role with PGSL? How did you first get involved?
I am currently the president of Poway Girls Softball.
My daughter was playing softball for Carmel Mountain Ranch in 2004. When that organization dissolved, we moved to Poway. She played a few more seasons, at which time we took a break from softball. My younger daughter decided to play softball so we joined up again. Seeing how influential this league was for the girls and their families, it was an easy decision to get more involved and eventually run the league for the past two years.
“PGSL has taught me how to work together and use teamwork to have fun and win games.” – Sophie Sotelo, 10U
What are the most rewarding parts of working with PGSL?
Seeing the community spirit of not only the girls but all their family and friends. That environment enables a healthy culture of learning that each girl can learn and grow from.
Can you tell us about any standout moments from last season?
During the heavy storms of 2017, our fields were completely destroyed. Seeing families out there, shovel in hand, doing back-breaking labor to get the fields back to playing shape made me realize how much community spirit this league has.
What are you looking forward to the most for this upcoming season?
All the smiling faces of the girls and families.
Tell us about your coaching staff and their backgrounds.
Our coaching staff gets training as required and comes from all types of backgrounds, from people new to sports, doctors, janitors, local business owners all the way to previous professional athletes.
Does PGSL hold any fundraisers throughout the season? If so, please elaborate.
We hold a meet and greet event at the start of the recreational season in February, and our biggest event is holding our annual Summer Heat Classic Allstar tournament in June.
Poway Girls Softball League
T-Ball: Ages 6-7
8U: Ages 7-8
10U: Ages 9-10
12U: Ages 11-12
14U: Ages 13-14
For those interested in volunteering, how can they get involved?
They can get involved not only in coaching but also the 16 board positions.
What are three reasons participants enjoy PGSL?
Competitive environment, learning environment, and community spirit.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
My daughters joined softball to play a sport. What each of them has gotten out of it is not only learning the game of softball and having fun playing games, but has building long-term friends and life lessons that have made them who they are today.