Preston Powell was an athletic superstar at Grambling University in Louisiana and recently was inducted into its Hall of Fame. The Cleveland Browns picked him in the seventh round of the 1961 college draft as a fullback to play behind the great Jim Brown, but Powell became a local legend in quite a different sport — slow pitch softball.
The Browns released him after one season because Preston suffered a knee injury. He spent the next year with the Dallas Cowboys and a year with the Chicago Bears, but his knee never healed and his football career was over.
He continued to live in Cleveland where he quickly became hooked on slow pitch softball. While playing in a Sunday morning league he was discovered by Joe Nato, who sponsored and managed a team called Star Motel in the old PD-Major Slow Pitch League at Morgana Park, one of the top softball leagues in the country. Preston couldn’t run but he compensated. He hit the ball out of the park. Soon Preston was the premier slugger in the league and one of the best in the world. Preston moved on to play for Erie Sheet Steel, Non-Ferrous Metal and Ohio Sealants, teams that were perennial contenders for national championships.
In the 1960s and ’70s both The Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Press picked all-city softball teams and Preston made all-city 10 straight years. He played in 10 world tournaments. His teams won one world championship and others finished third and fourth in the world.