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Bits & Pieces: Rec softball community loses one-of-a-kind figure

Lew Oppenheimer was a sports nut, an organizer of co-ed and women's softball programs, a confidante and a true friend to many people in Howard County. He was those things and much more, and somehow through his 30-plus years of involvement in softball programs here and in Baltimore City, he flew under the radar.

Lew did not seek the notoriety that usually comes with someone so dedicated to a sport for more than three decades. Instead, he just did his thing, organizing softball teams, coaching his teams, the Terminators and Lew's Crew, and bringing people into softball who might normally not play at all.

He was funny, urbane and sometimes even silly. He was also charismatic and a sports ambassador.

Unfortunately, Howard County and the softball community lost Lew Oppenheimer last week when he was struck by a car in Phoenix, where he had taken one of his teams to play in a tournament. Members of his team held his hand as they waited for medical attention to arrive. Lew died a few days later.

Lew was born in Philadelphia and loved the Phillies, Flyers and Eagles. He worked at the Social Security Administration and began his softball career in Baltimore City. Lew moved to Columbia and in 1978 organized a co-ed team representing Harper's Choice. That team became the Terminators.

In 1990, Lew was asked to help out a women's team here in the county called the Blue Stars. That team became Lew's Crew and enjoyed great success. He seemed to be at a softball game or tournament almost any day of the week.

Lew was 66 when he died. Those of us who knew him realize that things can never be the same without him. He played an important role in many of our lives, and we can only be thankful that he touched so many of us.

"Lew had an amazing ability to bring people together," said Cyndi Skillings, a long-time friend and former player.

Award-winning racer

Reservoir graduate Ryan Jackson is having an impressive cross country season at Salisbury University. The sophomore has been named Capital Athletic Conference men's cross country Runner of the Week for each of the four weeks that Salisbury has competed. He has not finished lower than third in any race this season.

HCC to host region soccer championships

I have watched as the Howard Community College athletic department has gradually improved over the past decade or so, to the point where the Dragons have a sports program that rivals any community college in the country and even some larger colleges in the area.

The Dragons' pride will again be on display this Saturday, as the school hosts the 2011 NJCAA Region XX mens and women's soccer championships. The men's semifinals will be played on Thursday at noon and 3 p.m., and the women will start on Friday at noon and 3. The women's championship will be played Saturday at noon, and the men will play their title game on Saturday at 3 p.m. Admission is free for children under 12, $2 for HCC students with ID and seniors, and $5 for adults.

Lightning players give back

I could write here about Long Reach football's big overtime win against Hammond on Saturday, but instead I'll write about something they did earlier in the week. On Thursday, Oct. 20, the Long Reach football team helped set up the annual Howard County 50+ Expo, held the next day at Wilde Lake High School.

I'm sure the players' muscles were put to good use in helping set up the event, which benefits the county's elderly residents. If you ask me, the Lightning earned two victories last week.

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