In spring, retirees' fancy turns to playing competitive softball

AT PLAY

April 26, 2006|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The men of Joe Corbi's softball team play an old-fashioned game, but not like old fogeys. All senior citizens, they don't toss the ball softly, swing gently or jog lightly around the bases. They play hard, competitive softball.

"These guys amaze you with what they can do on a softball field at 65 years old," said Guy Cremen of Glen Burnie, the manager for the last three seasons. "I'm serious. These guys can still play."

Through much of its 10-year existence, the Anne Arundel County team has been extremely successful, racking up two national championship tournaments in 2004 and another major competition last summer.

It's hoping for more of the same this season, which starts this weekend. Cremen and his friends have put together a schedule that will have the team hopscotching across the country to games in Utah, Washington state, California, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia and Delaware. Last year, Corbi's went to Utah, Arizona, Texas, Iowa, West Virginia, North Carolina and Delaware.

"We do play good teams from all over the country," Cremen said. "It's good competition."

Cremen, 72, is retired from working in security in the railroad industry. Now he spends a lot of time scheduling practices and games for the approximately 20 players. He also still pitches on occasion and sometimes works in the infield.

"I have fun with it," Cremen said. "If I didn't, I wouldn't do it."

Corbi's plays in various affiliations, which lets everyone compete in a wide range of tournaments.

In 2004, the team won the Senior Softball World Championship in Las Vegas and the Senior Softball World Series in Des Moines, Iowa. Last year, it won a gold medal at the Huntsman Games in the "65 super major" division, the highest in that age bracket.

But Corbi's also does something that many other senior teams in the Baltimore metro area do: It plays in a regular senior softball league.

Corbi's is scheduled to play 42 games this season in the Baltimore Beltway Senior Slow Pitch Softball League. All of its 14 teams play every Monday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. from April through early September.

Corbi's competes under the name "Glen Burnie" in the Beltway league, and its ability is well-known and respected. Its home games are in Catonsville.

"Glen Burnie is one of the top two teams in our league," said Howard County manager Ed Kirk. "The Glen Burnie team is a tournament team and has a large number of players to draw from."

A second team in the Baltimore Beltway league has a strong Anne Arundel influence. Crownsville, which has a number of players from the area, changed its name to Glenelg this season because it has more Howard County players and wanted to be closer to that area. Home games are played at Randozzo Park in Millersville.

But manager Ron Ward is one of a number of players who still come to Anne Arundel County on a regular basis to play in senior leagues here. He plays first and second base in a night league for players ages 60 and up.

"I love it," he said. "I have a guy on my morning team who's about 84. We've got guys on our night team that are still good ballplayers who are 75 or 78."

The Glenelg team won the Maryland Senior Olympics two years ago and a bronze medal at the National Senior Olympics in Pittsburgh last year.

Cremen's team always looks to win more medals. The more games and tournaments, the better, members say. The team played about 120 games in 2004. By comparison, the Baltimore Orioles play 162 games a year, with a variety of 20- and 30-somethings.

Cremen said his team members always have fun on the field - but opponents shouldn't forget that they come to win.

"Do they take pride?" Cremen said. "Damn right. None of them wants to lose. Everybody takes it seriously. There's not too many guys who walk away from losing a game smiling - until after we eat lunch."

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