Southern Adventist University’s annual All-Night Softball Tournament is the culminating moment of the softball intramural season. Students representing a variety of acdemic majors and different athletic skill levels (not to mention various degrees of cold-weather fortitude) play until the wee hours of the morning at the Summit Softball Complex. For one student in particular, the annual event represents memories a lifetime in the making.
Abner Sanchez, a senior liberal arts education major, hoped this year’s All-Night Softball Tournament would be one to remember. His team, Fresco, won the men’s tournament last year and he wanted to finish his time at Southern on top. Abner’s appreciation for the sport is nothing new, he brought a lifelong love of the game with him when he enrolled at Southern.
“When I was ten years old my dad would buy me baseball cards,” Abner said. “I memorized lots of players and teams.”
Growing up near a major league baseball park helped fuel his enthusiasm as well. Abner lived only five minutes from the old Florida Marlins stadium in Miami and could even see its gigantic scoreboard and screen from his home. It comes as no surprise that Abner was a frequent visitor to the park—often going as many as three times each week.
But he didn’t simply watch others on the field. In high school he played both second and third base until Sabbath conflicts, along with an honest self-evaluation of his own skills, saw him hang up the cleats until he came to Collegedale.
For his first two years on campus, Abner played intramural softball on teams with friends and did reasonably well, getting a good feel for the game and building valuable leadership skills that would serve him well down the road. It was then that “Team Fresco” was officially born. After spending a year in Palau as a student missionary, he returned to Southern and immediately picked up where he left off.
Team Fresco began modifying its roster under Abner’s watchful eye. Greg King, dean of the School of Religion, was perhaps the most impressive addition.
“He’s the best,” Abner said. “King keeps everyone positive, and is probably one of the best hitters in the school.”
Team Fresco became competitive and always finished atop the regular season standings, but could never finish in the tournament—until last year. Intramural director Mike Boyd saw the progression of Team Fresco, and Abner’s leadership skills, firsthand.
“Fresco went from a Cinderella team to a powerhouse in Southern softball,” Boyd said.
This year’s tournament was Saturday, October 8, a cool night with temperatures getting as low as 50 degrees. Students ventured in and out of the complex as their friends won and lost. Around 2 a.m. a light rain started that progressed until the tournament shut down completely around 3:30 a.m. By that time, Team Fresco had already made it to the championship game.
As the tournament resumed on Monday, Abner’s team had the opportunity to win both the regular season and the tournament—a first for them and an impressive accomplishment for any group of athletes. The only thing in the way was Flip Flops, a surprise team in this year’s tournament. But in the end, Team Fresco came out on top 7-4 in the men's championship game to give Abner the storybook ending to his Southern softball career. Lucky 13 won the women's title by a 3-2 margin.
“Softball intramurals has definitely been one of my top experiences at Southern,” Abner said. “I can honestly say that every teammate I’ve had has been a great friend! I even met the two best men in my wedding from forming Team Fresco.”
And while this one softball story at Southern ends, the tradition continues. Next year’s tournament will feel different without Abner there leading the charge, but other students will no doubt pick up where he left off. That’s how good teams work. That’s how traditions are made.
For more information on Southern’s intramurals, visit the intramural website.