For those who remember off-beat, late-night talk-show host David Letterman may remember his bit, “Brush with Greatness,” during which audience members would regale viewers with their tenuous connection to minor celebrity encounters.
Working in the Peninsula sports world, I’ve had my fair share of brushes with sports celebrities who played — mostly — for the San Francisco Giants and 49ers. Many a San Francisco-based athlete throughout the years have stayed, lived, settled and raised families on the Peninsula.
There’s former Giants pitcher Bill Laskey coaching the Aragon varsity softball team. There’s Barry Bonds taking in a Serra basketball game; Jerry Rice watching one of his sons play at Menlo School. There’s Brian Sabean, sitting in a lawn chair down the right-field line, watching his son’s American Legion baseball game; J.T. Snow, Little League third-base coach.
Then there are the kids of former professional athletes who are really too numerous to count.
Despite many interactions with these players and their parents, it’s still fun to have those chance encounters with people related to the world of sports.
Tuesday was such occasion. I must first preface this with the following: I am not a county native. My history only goes back to 2001, so I am kind of naïve when it comes to “back in the day” on the Peninsula.
I say this because if I was a local, maybe I would have already known the story about how the Hillsdale softball coach got his nickname — or that he is already well known in the Hillsdale community because of his ties to the school. He and his siblings were Knights.
Anyway — I knew Hillsdale had a new softball coach last season, but never got a chance to meet him before COVID wiped out the season. As I planned to cover the Knights’ game against Woodside, I was thinking out loud in the office, “Doesn’t the coach have a unique nickname? Clutch? Something like that?”
I figured I’d get his name after the game and off I went. Following the Knights’ 8-4 win over the Wildcats, I finish up my interview with the Hillsdale coach, whose given name is “Elizardo,” a 1989 Hillsdale graduate.
“Can I get your name?” I ask.
“Clinch. Fuentes,” came the reply.
“So, you go by Clinch, huh?”
I had to ask.
“How’d you come up with that?”
He goes on to explain his dad is Tito Fuentes, a 13-year veteran of Major League Baseball, who spent nine seasons with the San Francisco Giants.
The backstory of the nickname is pretty straightforward: Coach Fuentes was born on the day the Giants clinched the 1971 National League West Division title.
While on the subject of Hillsdale softball, 2019 graduate Brianna Santos earned postseason honors following her redshirt freshman season at University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
Santos, an outfielder and catcher for the Mountain Lions, was named to the first team as a utility player of the All-South Central Region as voted on by the Division 2 Conference Commissioners Association.
The South Central Region is comprised of schools from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and Lone Star Conference.
Santos played in all 42 games this season, splitting time at two positions — outfield and catcher. Wherever she was, she raked. She batted .418, 13th-best in the region. She had 45 RBIs and 41 runs scored. Of her 61 hits, 29 went for extra bases, which included 14 home runs (three grand slams), third-best in the RMAC. She also had 10 doubles and five triples.
Defensively, she was just as lethal. In 26 games in the outfield, she notched 12 assists.
While technically a redshirt freshman, Santos appeared in 23 games in 2020 before the pandemic wiped away the season. In 84 at-bats, she batted .478.
The PAL track and field championships begin Saturday, the first of a two-day, two-venue meet. Saturday, the field event will be competed at Aragon High School, while the running event will take place Monday at San Mateo.
Sadly, no spectators are allowed at either venue on either day — no, not even parents. But, Bay Area Online Sports Network will livestream Monday’s event live and will show a recorded replay of Saturday’s championship events prior. Monday’s streaming of the running finals will begin at 4 p.m. at BAOSN.TV.