|The New Zealand softball community is mourning the loss of its first world championship winning captain Dave Sorenson.
Sorenson, the captain of the 1976 gold medal winning New Zealand men's team, died in Lower Hutt on May 16, aged 76, after a long illness.
The Cardinals and Hutt Valley legend was the father of Mark Sorenson, current coach of the world champion New Zealand Black Sox.
The pair are the only father and son combination inducted into the New Zealand and International Softball Federations Halls of Fame.
“The softball community is mourning the void left by one of its greatest icons”, said Softball NZ CEO, Tony Giles. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Maureen, Mark and the entire Sorenson family at this sad time”.
Former New Zealand coach Mike Walsh described Dave Sorenson as “one of the great legends of our sport’’.
“Dave had an amazing softball brain, was a super tactician as an athlete and a coach, and most of all was a true mate. Thanks for the memories.’’
David Sorenson was born in Nelson but moved to Lower Hutt with his family at a young age and remained a proud Valley man for the rest of his life.
He attended Waddington Drive primary school and Petone Memorial Technical College with sport centre stage in his life.
Dave played rugby for the Petone club through to senior division two level and represented Wellington in the junior grades. But he always maintained softball was his great sporting love.
He joined the Cardinals club in 1951 and was proud to say in 2016: “I never played for any other club''.
Sorenson pitched for Cardinals at premier level for three years and first represented Hutt Valley as a teenage outfielder.
But Sorenson made his name as a first baseman. Tall and blessed with a strong arm, he seemed tailormade for the position.
“His arm is undoubtedly one of the best in the business while his fielding and footwork around first base are next to faultless,'' former Wellington representative softballer Garry Ward wrote in NZ Sports Digest in 1967.
Sorenson said during a 2016 video interview for Batter Up, the Hutt Valley Softball Association's 75th jubilee documentary, that “first base was an ideal place to play because you were involved in every play – people throwing the ball to you or baserunners trying to knock you over trying to get to first base. You had to be a good catcher of the ball and have a good strong arm for the resulting play.''
Sorenson was part of a legendary Hutt Valley which won a record six consecutive Beatty Cup national provincial titles between 1962 and 1967. He won a further six national championships between 1972 and 1979, the majority as Hutt Valley captain.
A proud Naenae resident, Sorenson led his local club Cardinals to three back-to-back John Lennon national interclub crowns between 1971 and 1973 and another in 1975.
Cardinals and Hutt Valley were the top teams in New Zealand in the early 1970s, largely due to the influence of Sorenson and other New Zealand players such as John Dawson, Terry Nunns and Wayne Baldwin. The club had a memorable tour of South Africa in 1974.
Sorenson was coach of Cardinals' championship winning teams in 1985 and 1995 with son Mark leading the batting lineup.
Dave Sorenson was selected on the first New Zealand world championships team in 1966 and was one of the top batters for the Pilgrims on their North American tour and the world tournament in Mexico City where he batted .269 with seven hits from 26 turns at bat for the bronze medal winning New Zealand team.
It was the first of four world championship selections for Sorenson, who was joined on the NZ team by his first Cardinals junior coach, Ross Smith.
Sorenson was invalided out of the 1968 tournament after injuring his knee on the buildup tour in California. He was forced to return home for surgery. The New Zealanders missed Dave's batting power at the Oklahoma City tournament, slumping to fifth place.
Sorenson was vice-captain of when New Zealand won another bronze medal in the 1972 world championships in Manila.
His proudest moment as a New Zealand player came in 1976 when Sorenson captained his country for a world series at home in the Hutt Valley.
Long regarded as a softball strategist, Sorenson had an influential role within the team. “He knew more about the game than most coaches,'' former NZ national coach Ed Dolejs, a technical adviser to the 1976 NZ team, wrote in his autobiography, Diamonds In the Sun. “The New Zealand coaches called the shots on the diamond with Dave Sorenson's help.''
Sorenson led New Zealand to a shared gold medal with the United States and Canada when a three-way tie was declared after rain forced the tournament to be abandoned.
Dave said during the Batter Up documentary that “it was great to see 10,000 people at the Hutt Rec, cheering for softball. Our New Zealand public got behind us; it was just a marvellous part of our softball career.''
Making it even sweeter for the Sorenson family, Dave's son Mark was the eight-year-old bat boy for the New Zealand team, and wife Maureen was part of the widely praised tournament organising committee.
Dave and Maureen Sorenson – both Hutt Valley Softball Association life members - made as dynamic a diamond duo as any pitcher-catcher combination.
They met as teenagers at the Petone Rugby Club and married in 1963. They combined raising three children – Mark and daughters Deanne and Jodie – with decades of service to the game.
Maureen never played softball but became a New Zealand scorer and has been a leading administrator for the Hutt Valley SA for over 40 years, latterly as president.
Dave continued to play club and representative softball until 1981 and also found time to become a qualified New Zealand umpire. He served on both the Hutt Valley and New Zealand Softball executives.
But coaching became his forte – both before and after he hung up his cleats.
He was coaching Cardinals and Hutt Valley while still a player and coached both to national titles and he coached the Hutt Valley women's team for a season in the mid-1990s.
Sorenson had soaked up a lot of knowledge from playing international softball and was renowned as one of New Zealand's smartest and most assertive coaches. He became assistant-coach to Mike Walsh of the silver medal winning Black Sox at the 1992 world championships in Manila. Mark captained the Black Sox at that tournament, making the Sorensons the first father and son to captain the national team at the sport's pinnacle event.
Dave Sorenson was inducted into the ISF (International Softball Federation) Hall of Fame in 1993 and the NZSA HoF in 1995. Mark joined him in the ISF HoF in 2009 and the NZ HoF in 2014.
Despite retiring from international softball himself, Dave and Maureen continued to attend world championships tournaments through to 2015, supporting Mark, as a player and a coach.