March Madness connotes fervor over the NCAA’s college basketball tournament. But as hoops hysteria enters the month of its final hurrah, baseball is being born anew. For the weekend warrior who still laces up his amateur spikes, the place to hone the craft is a batting cage. My spot for sharpening the eye has long been JP Longball (5232 Riley Street; 619-299-HITS). It’s where I spent the past two Mondays. Only now, it’s my 12-year-old daughter taking cuts. I stand outside the cage while she learns the nuances of the game. Circle of life? Yeah, sure.
JP Longball is in Loma Vista, literally just outside the shadows cast by the University of San Diego. For more than a decade, I swung and sweated and practiced putting bat on ball here. Now I watch as the daughter of the owner of JP’s shows my youngster how to keep her head down, pivot on the back foot and extend her arms into a swing.
Besides teaching girls how to hit here in the cage, Jaclyn Guidi is softball coach at Mesa College. She is a female voice of expertise to the Coronado Ice 12-and-under squad. It’s not the least bit anachronistic, I find, to see my daughter standing at the very plate where I spent more than a decade. Jaclyn’s father, owner Harry Carvalho, is still active here, despite a spate of physical problems.
He and I talk of hip replacement surgeries. Yards away, his daughter and mine talk about rotating hips to get more power from a swing.
Baseball is reborn every March. Observers believe the local professional team won’t produce a highlight-reel season. No matter. I’m on a bandwagon that transcends the won-lost record of the San Diego Padres. This month, you can bet I’m still taking notice of college basketball highlights. But tickets to Petco Park and sports bar seats for the Final Four take a backseat now. Make me choose between Padres playoff tickets and an hour in JP Longball with the Coronado Ice, and you’ll find me holed up inside a Linda Vista sweatbox somewhere just outside the shadows of USD.
Ron Donoho, formerly executive editor of "San Diego Magazine," is a regular contributor to NBCSandiego.com who covers local news, sports, culture and happy hours.