Over 30's Play Ball
Once a Game Only for the Boys of Summer, Amateur Baseball Leagues Are Now Filled with Thousands of Men Over 30
From the Print Edition:
Gina Gershon, Sep/Oct 98
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San Antonio's Nelson Wolff can top that. He may be the only guy in any league who takes the field in a stadium named after him. A former two-term mayor of that city, he is now the chief executive officer of a Texas chain of natural food grocery stores. While in city hall, Wolff worked diligently to get a new 6,500-seat minor league ballpark built. After the stadium opened in 1994 as home to a Texas League franchise, the city named it after him. Now, teams in the MSBL occasionally play there as well. At 57, Wolff plays for a 40-and-over team when at home and a 50-plus team in the Arizona World Series. "It's just as competitive as when you're 18," he says. "I still get butterflies. You don't want to mess up. There's an enormous personal satisfaction of knowing you're doing things an 18 year old can do."
There's something more to it, too: the team. "They're no fans watching, except maybe some of the players' families," Wolff says. "You're out there solely for your teammates and yourself. There are few things like it when you're older. It pulls back memories of the boyhood magic of a bunch of guys coming together to play to win. Frankly, there are few guy things like this left. It's just a whole lot of fun." A cigar smoker, he adds, "If we win a game, I go home and smoke one. A Montecristo from the Dominican Republic is a perfect smoke after a baseball game."
Wolff played poorly during his early days in the MSBL, then compounded his problems by pulling a hamstring while running to first base. "It gets frustrating," he says. "You think you should do better." He started going to a batting cage and working out. He recovered from the injury and the quality of his play improved. "If you stick with it," he says, "you can pick up the pace."
Wolff plans to return to Arizona for the third time this October. He raves about the pleasure of playing on major league-quality fields and the excitement of playing against guys from all around the country, including some top-flight players. "It's one of those things," he says,
"that everyone has to experience at least once in a lifetime."
Last year, during a World Series game on his 57th birthday, he played what he says was just about the best game of his life, participating in three double plays as a second baseman and smacking a one-hopper 360 feet off the left-field fence. It was a treasured time that recaptured some of the long-lost joys of his childhood. "On that day," he recalls, "playing on a magic baseball field on a cool evening, I became young after being old. Time had flashed back to the baseball fields of my youth. And here I was, a free spirit, young at heart, physically stronger than ever before."
In an era when the game of baseball has taken some hard knocks at its top levels, old guys playing a boy's game just for the love of it make it easy to believe that summer will never end.
For information about the Men's Senior and Adult Baseball Leagues, check their Website at www.msbl.com, or call or write their offices at 516-753-MSBL, One Huntington Quadrangle, Suite 3 No.7, Melville, New York 11747.
Marc Wortman is a freelance writer based in New Haven, Connecticut.
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