Senior players step to the plate

May 14, 2006|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Guy Cremen gets to travel and see different parts of the United States during the spring and summer. He also gets to do one of his favorite things.

Cremen is the manager of two Anne Arundel County senior softball teams. One of the teams, Joe Corbi's, won two national championship tournaments in 2004 and a gold medal in a major competition last year.

"I play a little bit, but I don't play a whole lot anymore," Cremen said. "I'll also play a little bit of infield, but the majority of the time I'm still the manager. I have fun with it because if I didn't, I wouldn't do it."

The world of senior softball is growing in the metro area, even though softball has long been popular in Anne Arundel County. Places such as Randazzo Park remain busy throughout the spring and summer.

Joe Corbi's has grown into a solid team and has become a force known across the United States. Cremen, an Anne Arundel County resident, is in his third year as the manager of a Corbi's team that has been together for about 10 years. Corbi's won the two national titles in 2004 because the team plays in four or five affiliations - there are a number of them in senior softball - so it has the opportunity to go after different championships.

It also lets Corbi's get in some mileage and some games.

Cremen's team has put together a schedule that rivals those played by much younger squads. Corbi's plays the toughest competitions in big tournaments and does it all around the country.

The Corbi's itinerary for this spring and summer is an impressive one, and looks more like a college or minor-league baseball team than a group of senior citizens - and that's just the way Cremen wants it.

"It's good competition, and these guys amaze you with what they can do on a softball field at [at least] 65 years old," said Cremen, 72. "Once we get started, we average about two tournaments per month, and we do play good teams from all over the country."

This year's schedule includes trips to cities such as Seattle, Palm Springs, Calif., and Dallas. They usually travel across the country - when they won the Senior Softball World Championship in 2004, Corbi's players went to Las Vegas to do it.

The team also traveled to Iowa to capture the Senior Softball World Series title that summer. Cremen said the team played about 120 games that summer.

"These guys can still play," Cremen said. "Do they take pride? Damn right they do. None of them wants to lose." The team also plays in the Baltimore Beltway Senior Slow Pitch Softball League. That league plays at 10 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at sites throughout Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Corbi's will play 42 games in that league and will have a chance to play in postseason competition. That league goes from April until early September and complements Corbi's games across the country. In the Baltimore Beltway league, the team is known as Glen Burnie.

Glen Burnie has gotten off to a good start this season. The team won its first four games, scoring 71 runs in the process. That strong start didn't surprise many people, as Glen Burnie has been a solid team in the league for years.

"Well, 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 he has a large roster to draw from."

Ron Ward is the manager of another strong senior softball team - actually, two of them - with Anne Arundel ties. Ward is the coach of a team that was based in Crownsville before changing its name to Glenelg this year in the Baltimore Beltway league. But many of the players on that team are from Anne Arundel County.

In addition, Ward helps run a team that plays a doubleheader every Thursday night in Anne Arundel County. Like Cremen, Ward is retired and looks forward to getting out on the field as often as possible.

"I love it," said Ward, 65. "Everybody enjoys it and loves being on the field."

Ward plays first or second base and said he has been back in the sport for about 15 years after drifting away for a while. His team has won a championship in the Baltimore league - which had been split into divisions, but has just one of them this year - in three of the past five years.

That team also won the Maryland Senior Olympics crown two years ago and went to Pittsburgh for the National Senior Games last summer. It came away with a bronze medal in that competition.

"Ron's team is very competitive and very strong also," said Kirk.

Ward likes that the rules get everyone playing time in both leagues. As long as players come out to the field, he and Cremen believe they should be playing. The Baltimore league lets managers bat as many players as they want to - with the normal three outs per inning limit - and put 11 players in the game on defense.

"You know, at this time in life you just say, `Oh, well, we're just having fun,'" Cremen said. "And we do. But everyone also takes it seriously. Nobody wants to lose. There's not too many guys who walk away from losing a game smiling - until after we eat lunch. Then they're smiling."

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