Once upon a time in a land far-far away a couple lived in a small mountain community called Running Springs and when they moved into town no one (especially them) realized the impact they would have on the community.
In this particular case their names were Sandy and Larry Caplinger. Before their arrival (not by spaceship but by car) there was so soccer in the local mountains and a lot of people way back then had never heard of soccer (and I was one of them!). That couple changed the “face” of sports in the mountains and their dedication, all these years, has enriched the lives of literally thousands of local soccer and baseball players.
Sandy Caplinger grew up in Long Beach and she graduated from Milliken High School. Sandy was working at Honeywell in 1962 when she met this tall good-looking man named Larry at the famous “Pike” in Long Beach. She was smitten and so was he and the couple married in the famous Las Vegas landmark, the Little White Chapel on August 11, 1961. They’ve been happily married all these years. Larry grew up in Ohio and at 17-years-old he joined the Navy and for a long time he was stationed in Long Beach which is how the couple met.
They decided to move back to Ohio to see if they could happily live there again but it didn’t work out so they decided Running Springs would be a great place to live and they’ve been here ever since. Their children attended and graduated from Rim schools so this was all meant to be! My, how this couple has changed life for so many thousands of boys and girls as well as their parents. At the time they moved to Running Springs their son John was two-years-old and their son Michael was a three-month-old baby.
Not only did the Caplinger’s bring their children to the local community they brought a love for the English sport, soccer. Their son Michael was playing soccer (whatever that was) and they went to a meeting and one thing led to another and pretty soon a blossoming soccer program was underway. A wonderful lady, Leah Gerry, came on board with the idea because she was involved with a soccer league n Hollywood so, as we know, when like minds get together great things happen!
In 1977 Larry became regional soccer commissioner but just a few years later, in 1985, Sandy became soccer commissioner, a position she has held all these years. Larry has played an unbelievable part in this whole “soccer picture” because he became area director which had him working with many different teams throughout the region.
To say that Larry and Sandy were the founders of a youth soccer league is an understatement. With their devotion and dedication the soccer program grew to include teams from Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead, Crestline and Running Springs. They also hosted summer soccer camps, international competitions and they were instrumental in adoption of the high school varsity boys and girls soccer programs.
Soccer wasn’t the only thing the “dynamic duo” supported because they also served on the Rim Youth Sports Baseball League. During those early years available fields were few and far between in the mountains. In fact the only fields were those on some of the school campuses and the use of those fields for the burgeoning soccer program “way back when” was sometimes difficult due to other leagues or football programs which were also competing, more or less, for the use of the same school fields.
The Caplingers were instrumental in the formation of an independent park and recreation district that would be able to supply funds to purchase property for other fields throughout all the mountain areas, from Crestline to Running Springs. The day that Caplinger Field was sodded by Running Springs community members is a day that those of us who were there have never forgotten. The site, by Hootman Center and (then) Running Springs Elementary School (Now Hoffman Elementary), was a huge dusty dirt field and in one day about 100 of us sodded that entire field. It went from being a dusty dirt field to being bright emerald-green in one day. The name of the field? Caplinger Field, of course!
Larry Caplinger received national recognition a few years ago by becoming National Director of the AYSO National Games. This tournament was played several times in southern California. Without a doubt one of the greatest moments in his life must have been when Larry happily received the highest acclaim possible, when he was inducted into the AYSO National Hall of Fame.
Do you think the couple has “retired” now that they are older? You must be kidding! You’ll find them both at Brulte Field by Charles Hoffman Elementary School each Saturday doing what they have done for decades. Collectively they schedule games, take signups, they “line” the fields, set up nets and do whatever it takes to keep the weeks-long season going.
They are beloved by the communities they have served all these years and they were both honored by the Running Springs Area Chamber of Commerce a few years ago as the Citizens of the Year. You couldn’t possibly find a couple who have collectively had more of an impact on their communities than they have.
Aren’t we lucky to have them?!