Reunion gathers athletes guided by Coach Bear

Coach Vidal "Bear" Molina holds a softball autographed by his former players along with an appreciation plaque that was presented to him during a recent reunion. (Photo by Celia Ruiz)

Buenos Dias!

In part one of a series about Live Oak County baseball coach Vidal “Bear” Molina, I talked about several of us players from his team getting together for a recent reunion in George West.

In this article, I share the memories of many of those who enjoyed playing softball under Bear’s leadership.

Linda Lopez recalled that she played as pitcher when the team was named the “Blue Demons.”

There was excitement as she recalled that there was another team coached by Hector Cuevas and she also traded off and played with his team, too. She kidded that now she wouldn’t be able to “walk fast around the bases” much less RUN”!

Amalia (Maria) Soliz attended school in Tilden but stayed with her grandmother in George West during the summer, and she remembers playing under Bear’s coaching with “Bear and the B J’s”. 

She loved to play baseball to keep her busy and usually played first and third base. She especially remembered  Mary Ann Valverde’s “power hits” and how it burned her gloved hand when she caught them!

She married the late Juan Soliz in 1976 and they were blessed with Eugene and Melissa. Amalia is now teaching her grandbabies to play T-ball!   

Ena Pena, now 76, remembers playing catcher and playing under Bear’s coaching when we combined teams with Three Rivers and George West and we were playing with the Cherokees. 

We were sponsored by Joe Moron’s “El Dorado” of Beeville and wore a brown and gold baseball uniform. She kidded that she could hit but couldn’t run fast and Bear would kid her, “des-tranca la treyla”! She said that the weather was so hot, and I would tell her, “Think snow!”

In 1981 she had breast cancer and after her mastectomy and in remission, she came back and continued playing as catcher for several more years. She’s married to Simon and her son lives in San Antonio. Now she loves bingo!

Sylvia (Garcia) Men-chaca attended from Beeville and remembers our baseball practice from 5 p.m. until dark. Prior to a game or tournament, she remembered that Bear would practice with her “to get it right.”

Then her dad, the late Joe Garcia, would also practice with her on what Bear instructed. She was a good player but remembers her love of dancing got her in trouble with Coach Bear.

She went to a dance at El Dorado and the next day we had a Kenedy tournament, and she couldn’t catch any fly balls!

She learned to stay home when we were instructed by Bear, who said, “If you want to play, I will coach you 100 %. If you want to go dancing, I will find out and you will be benched!” 

Carmen Molina, Bear’s wife, said neither she nor anyone in her family ever played baseball, but when they were married, she promised that she would support their kids and him with all her heart, and she did, indeed!

There were times when Carmen would be in the bleachers in the hot sun while we were playing in a tournament, and occasionally she would go to the car and turn on the air conditioner!

She saw the love Bear had for sports, and how he treated all the players with love and respect. Being married, she had the choice to follow him or stay home.

Carmen said it so beautifully: “He’s my husband now, and I chose to be with him and enjoyed the companionship with all the players, as I saw all the dust blowing, and us (players) retrieving balls that had been hit onto the field overflowing with weeds!”

In an upcoming issue, I will share more memories of Bear and the team.

Until next time ... Adios!

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