Love of baseball keeps teams in game

AT PLAY

Adult Baseball League gives older players a chance to bond on and off the field

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

Darren Vican is this year's groom for the Pirates of the Adult Baseball League from the Department of Recreation and Parks.

The Pirates seem to have a different player getting married each summer, giving teammates the chance to come to the wedding to help celebrate. That's what will happen when Vican gets married in a ceremony outside Philadelphia next month.

It's likely to be a complicated weekend for the Pirates, who will head to Pennsylvania after work on Friday and stay through the first part of Sunday, when everyone is due back in Anne Arundel County for a 5 p.m. game.

"He's going to miss his start that day," manager John Goode said with a laugh.

The Pirates are typical of many in the 11-team league, a group of guys who still love to the play the game despite approaching middle age and still will do almost anything to be out on a baseball field.

"It's definitely a release," Goode, 39, said. "I go out and coach a lot of Little League, but this is a release for me because I get to play the game as opposed to coaching it."

The Pirates might be a bit more closely knit than most teams. It has a strong nucleus of players who have been together for several years. They are friends on and off the field, with baseball serving as a central point.

Eight players on the team played for the Arundel High School program under Bernie Walter, something that serves as a connection. They work hard to play baseball the way Walter teaches it, emphasizing the fundamentals.

Jeff Porter, the facility superintendent for Joe Cannon Stadium and Randazzo Park and who runs the league for Recreation and Parks, said this league is simply about guys who want to keep playing the game they love.

"If somebody's a die-hard baseball fan, and they want to stick with the game that they know, this is a chance to get together and have some fun," Porter said.

Porter said that most teams have been together for years and that if one splits up, others will absorb those players. It's the type of league where everyone knows everyone and relationships are strong.

"It's just guys that ... don't want to play softball," Porter said. "They've played baseball since Little League, and they want to continue playing. Just because they get older doesn't mean the competitive juices wane."

The league runs through the spring and summer as each team plays 21 games, plus playoffs. Two games are played per week at four county sites.

But some teams play even more baseball. The Chesapeake Marlins and the Pirates, for example, head to the Men's Senior Baseball League Nationals, a tournament held in Tampa Bay, Fla., for several days each November. Teams from all over the country, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other places participate.

Marlins Manager Tad Trias said they love the tournament for a number of reasons, including that the players can play on minor-league fields that professional ballplayers work on.

"That's really a Class A tournament," Trias said.

The Pirates are going as a team for the first time. The players have arranged to take time off to head down Florida.

The Marlins also enjoy themselves during the season. Much like other teams, they get together on a regular basis after games to socialize.

"Believe me, I like the winning, but part of managing [and playing] ... it's a camaraderie," Trias said. "It's great fun."

Like Goode, Trias played high school baseball. He then stuck with softball until he was old enough to compete in this league.

"I've always loved baseball, and I was just waiting to get into an adult league," Trias said. "There was an 18-and-over league [in Baltimore], and I knew it was a little bit too far for me, and I didn't know any of the guys there. This was where all my guys that I knew played, so I was just waiting to hit the right age."

Age does make a difference. That's why seeing how the Pirates do the day after Vican's wedding could be an interesting baseball story in itself. But as long as they're out on the field, they'll be happy.

"It's a blast just to be out on the field," Goode said. "We just have so much fun hanging out together."

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