Here, every day is old-timers' day

Slow-pitch: Members of the Anne Arundel County Senior Softball Association prove that the sport they love isn't just a young man's game.

Arundel At Play

Recreation and local sports in Anne Arundel County

August 03, 2005|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Art Erhardt takes his slow-pitch softball seriously. So after the Glen Burnie catcher suffered a freak injury - he hurt both arms with one swing of a bat - he began seeing a physical therapist regularly and even took anti-inflammatory cortisone shots in both shoulders.

That was three years ago, and although his recovery has been slow, he said he has missed only a few games.

Erhardt is 75, but as he put it: "I can still run, and I can still play."

He plays in the Anne Arundel County Senior Softball Association, an organization formed in 1984 for people age 50 and older who still want to play the game.

Not slowing down

There are 21 teams in the organization and several players over 70 who regularly play at the county-owned Randazzo Softball Park in Severn and the Bachman Sports Complex in Glen Burnie. Few, if any, have any intention of slowing down, at least relative to their competition.

Erhardt, in fact, ran the association for several years before stepping down after last season. But he's still playing ball for Arthur's Seniors, a 55-and-older team that plays Tuesday and Thursday nights, and he relishes being able to go out on the field on a regular basis.

Many of the teams can still play - and well. The best might be Joe Corbi's, a group of men ages 65 to 69 that won two national softball championships last year and two more a few years earlier. Corbi's, sponsored by a pizza-selling fundraising company, also plays in Anne Arundel County's Don Brooks Senior League, which features doubleheaders Tuesday nights.

Guy Cremen of Glen Burnie manages Corbi's and pitches occasionally - he's 4-0.

Next stop, World Series

Corbi's was in first place in the Tuesday league with a 23-1 record through Monday and will be heading to the Senior Softball World Series in Des Moines, Iowa, this month to defend that championship. The team also will be going to the Senior Softball World Championship in Phoenix in October to defend that title, which it won last year in Las Vegas.

"We've just got good players, that's about it," said Cremen, now in his second year as Corbi's manager. "In slow-pitch softball, you've got to play defense [because] you can't give outs away like in other games. That's basically what we did last year ... and we're pretty much the same this year. We're just a year older."

At 71, he said he's feeling his age - sort of.

"I don't like playing against 55s - that's tough," said Cremen. "When you're 30 and you're playing against a 35, there's not much difference. But when you're 70 and playing against a 55, there's a big difference."

From near and far

Corbi's players hail from different areas. Cremen said the team has players who live as far away as Cumberland, Frederick and even Pennsylvania.

The team also picks up players from Pittsburgh and West Virginia when going to the bigger national tournaments.

Frank Murth plays for Corbi's and also takes his softball seriously. He toils in three leagues each week this summer and still works full time, running a pizza distributorship based in Baltimore. Murth also played on a 45-and-over team in Calvert County last fall.

And he's 68.

"I love it. I keep myself in shape, and I live to play softball," said Murth, an Upper Marlboro resident. "I can't die if I've got a game to play."

Three groupings

The Anne Arundel County Senior Softball Association splits its teams into three brackets that play on different days each season. There are 50-and-over teams along with 55-and-over squads that compete twice each week, plus a smaller group of four older teams that go one night a week.

George Mercier is the manager of the Rips, who have a 22-4 record and are in second place, behind Corbi's. The Bowie resident said that most of his team has been together for a while.

"The core of our team has been playing together for almost 20 years," Mercier, 59, said. "It's a lot of fun for everyone. A lot of us have been friends for a long time."

The association makes some age concessions for when older teams, such as a 65-and-over squad, meets a younger group. House rules then allow the older team to put one extra player on the field defensively, as well as use an unlimited number of players in the batting lineup.

Feeling confident

Corbi's doesn't get that kind of concession when competing in the major tournaments, but players are confident in their talent. Cremen, who is retired after working 40 years as a freight railroad police officer, said that Corbi's looks forward to playing in the big-name tournaments.

Cremen said the tournaments can prove taxing at times, as they've had to play as many as five games in one day.

The main thing is, they're competing with teams of their own age instead of facing some younger groups, as they have to do in the local leagues.

But Cremen said the excitement of playing in high-pressure games will always carry his teams. They've been going to these tournaments for at least a decade and know what to expect.

"In the big tournament ... it's just the adrenaline," he said. "The adrenaline is there, and it keeps everybody going. All you hope for is that nobody gets hurt."

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