Sultan Of Swat


Standout: Fred Gilbart's police work helps his softball game.

July 25, 1999|By Nancy Menefee Jackson | Nancy Menefee Jackson,Special to the Sun

"Oh no, Fred's up."

Opposing teams have uttered those words in despair, as playoff hopes vanish and close games turn into routs. For years, Fred Gilbart has been a standout player in the Overlea-Fullerton co-ed softball leagues. He's been known to hit not just fly balls but also line drives so deep into the outfield they ended up in the next diamond.

The 37-year-old shortstop anchors the infield, too, although he sometimes plays third base. Either way, hit it to the left side of the infield, and it's usually Gilbart's ball.

He's been playing softball since 1984, starting out in men's leagues. Although he still plays in a men's league on Saturdays, he has more fun in the co-ed leagues. "Men tend to take it a lot more seriously," he says, "If you make a mistake, they yell at you. I guess I used to be that way myself. In co-ed softball the girls kind of wear you down, and you realize we're just here to have fun."

Although opposing teams may be convinced Gilbart must have spent some time in the Orioles' farm system, in fact he was a tennis player, recruited to softball when a co-worker mentioned that they needed an extra player. Gilbart played high school tennis for Calvert Hall College, and still spends the fall, winter and spring playing.

The same quickness that serves him well at shortstop enhances his tennis game, especially when combined with a strong serve and good backhand.

But Gilbart, who lives in Locust Point, has an even more pressing reason to stay in shape -- his job depends on it. A Baltimore City police sergeant, Gilbart is a member of the Quick Response Team, the city's SWAT team. In order to be on the team, an officer must be able to do 70 sit-ups, 70 push-ups, 15 pull-ups and run a mile in under six minutes.

He's provided time to work out, and he does, concentrating on weights on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

He prefers free weights to a Universal machine. On Mondays he concentrates on chest and triceps, Wednesdays are for back and biceps, and Fridays he does quadriceps exercises and leg raises. He begins his bench-pressing routine by starting with about 50 percent of the weight he can press, doing three sets of 10 reps, and gradually working up to his maximum weight, which is 305.

"I just do the normal stuff you'd find in any weight-lifting book," he says. "It's nothing spectacular. I just like working up a sweat."

On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, he runs between three and five miles, in addition to softball in the summer and tennis in the off-season.

His quickness is simply an athletic gift, and Gilbart admits that when he plays ball, "I've noticed that I've slowed down a bit. I don't get that jump like I used to."

In order to preserve what's left, he does an exercise routine called "circuits." He begins by running for 10 or 15 minutes, and then does push-ups and 50 leg raises, followed by "mountain climbers," an exaggerated stepping motion. Then he runs for five more minutes, and follows up the running with jumping jacks.

He also goes to the track to run 440s, sprinting the straightaways and walking the curves, doing eight laps. "That's very good for your speed, but it really wears you out," he says. "You'd be surprised how much that increases your speed, particularly in the mile."

He also juggles -- his schedule that is -- to find time to play softball three times a week even when he's working nights. He admits to using an occasional floating day to make a game, but he says with regret, "Some days I just have to miss." Somewhere, an opposing team is breathing a sigh of relief.

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