Army civilian attributes life-long strengths to baseball
November 23, 2009
When Norberto Soto-Fuentes played little league baseball at age 10 in Caguas, Puerto Rico, he had no idea how much the game would affect him for the rest of his life.
Soto-Fuentes, the executive officer for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (USASMDC/ARSTRAT) G-1, participated in a 52-team Roy Hobbs Baseball Tournament at Fort Myers, Fla., from Oct. 31 through Nov. 7. Soto-Fuentes, a short stop and second baseman, along with fellow pitcher and third baseman, Glen Shonkwiler, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Office of the Engineer, represented the Sparkman team of Huntsville which won two out of seven games.
The Sparkman team is part of the Southern Senior Baseball League (SSBL). The teams in this multi-bracketed tournament were made up of talented players from throughout the United States. Soto-Fuentes, an Army retiree, plays baseball every chance he gets.
The 43-year-old says baseball has affected almost every aspect of his life.
"The tournament was conducted at the Red Sox Spring Training Complex at Fort Myers, Florida," Soto-Fuentes said. "I had an awesome time. I know that the 'Red Sox Nation' appreciates my sportsmanship, since I am a true 'Yankees' fan," he said.
"Aside from giving me skills in leadership and competition, baseball has other elements that have influenced me since I began playing," Soto-Fuentes said.
He said that playing baseball gave him regimented skills that helped him through boot camp when he first joined the Army in 1984. He served as a field artilleryman and gunnery sergeant and was deployed to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm as well as to Bosnia-Herzegovina. His final assignment was with the 10th Mountain (Light) Infantry Division at Fort Drum, N.Y.
Soto-Fuentes said he didn't know that baseball league teams existed at his age group when he first arrived from Arlington, Va., to Huntsville in 2007. The SSBL offers older baseball players a chance to get out and play with others who still enjoy the game.
"Much to my amazement, our age group netted some really good players who made up our team," Soto-Fuentes said. "Of course, we all have to practice because when you don't, you can get injured and it takes longer to heal a pulled muscle at our age group," he said with a smile.
Perhaps one of his most memorable moments was when he recently met Roberto Clemente Jr., son of the famous professional baseball player and Major League Baseball right fielder. Clemente had been asked to be a guest speaker at the Bob Jones Auditorium during National Hispanic Heritage Month in September.
Clemente (senior) played 18 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1955 to 1972, all with Pittsburgh. He was awarded the National League's Most Valuable Player Award in 1966. During the course of his career, Clemente was selected to participate in the league's All Star Game on 12 occasions. He won 12 Gold Glove Awards and led the league in batting average four different seasons.
"Baseball has elements of good sportsmanship and a strong, healthy competitive spirit which carries over into real-world situations and occupations," he said, adding, "I guess that is why it is considered 'America's game' and why it has helped me while continuing to serve as a civilian in the Army."