Coach: Pacific Force still viable
The rumor has circulated on Okinawa for weeks: Pacific Force is done.
The region’s premier softball team since the Pacific interservice Grand Slam circuit began in 1989, with a record 39 tournament titles, won’t enter this weekend’s Kadena Klassic — the second Grand Slam tournament it’s missed this year.
“There is no Pac Force,” Kadena Klassic tournament director Dexter High said Tuesday, three days before the start of the tournament.
The team still exists, Pacific Force coach Mel Harris said, but can’t play in the Kadena Klassic because too many players have deployed, transferred or are playing for their All-Service teams.
“Pacific Force is in a temporary lull,” Harris said Tuesday.
Pitcher Lee Burket is about to deploy to the Middle East. Infielder Keith Serrano transferred last month to Keflavik Air Base, Iceland.
Catcher Cherylton McRae was selected to the All-Marine team and shortstop Carlo Aguon to the All-Air Force team, playing in the All-Armed Forces tournament Sept. 8-10 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Not enough players remain, Harris said, for Pacific Force — the Klassic’s two-time defending champion — to compete as it would want.
“We want to play at a certain level,” Harris said. “It’s not worth it to pick up a handful of guys and tell them we only want them for one tournament. I don’t do things like that. We just don’t have the players.”
While Pacific Force, along with the Misfits, another Okinawa open team, are off the radar for now, Yellow Box, which finished second in the tournament last year, headlines a field of 22 teams in the Klassic.
The 15-team men’s field is three fewer than last year. Only two teams — Guam’s Andersen Bombers and Japan’s Sasebo Pirates — are from off-island, though High said Japan’s Yokota Samurai were trying to enter.
The women’s field features seven teams, one more than last year. The host Kadena Falcons, mainly players from last year’s champion TPS Diamonds, must get along without eight of its players. Like Pacific Force, Kadena lost players to transfers, deployment and to All-Service teams.
Maegan Sinclair and Michell Hall transferred, Jenny Lozano returned to Texas A&M for her sophomore year, Mandy Snyder deployed, Candace Dugo is on leave, Peni Nery, Shannon Thomas and Twyla Sears are at All-Air Force camp and All-Armed Forces outfielder Jamie Bailey is at All-Marine camp.