The Osceola Senior Softball League marked its impressive 25th anniversary at its Opening Day on Nov. 2, but it started its eight-team winter season a bit early, and without a couple of its mainstays on the diamonds.
The league of 55-and-over players, which pays dues to Kissimmee Parks and Recreation but is able to run and govern itself, normally plays Mondays and Fridays at 9 a.m. from January to April. But since the city needs the fields for a collegiate event this March, the senior softballers kicked the 2019 season a little early, and will wrap up in February with their annual playoffs.
An Opening Day ceremony included festivities that show why the league is a group that plays together, laughs together, and sometimes cries together.
Rick Arleo, the league’s secretary, won’t play this season because of a cardiac episode he had back in September — some of the league’s members play pickup games at the Denn John Fields when league’s not in session — on the field.
During a Sept. 24 pickup game at Denn John, Arleo began to collapse when blood clots in his legs kicked off a cardiac arrest episode.
Two fellow players, Rico Rivera and Red Denizard, rendered immediate aid and CPR, and it wasn’t lost on Arleo, who presented them with an engraved token of appreciation and friendship on Opening Day.
“Because of these guys, I’m still here to tell the story,” Arleo said.
Another regular who was in attendance, but not in uniform, was Del Babb. He turned 92 during the “off-season”, and after playing the first 24 league seasons, he recently announced his “retirement”, but was on hand to throw out the league’s ceremonial first pitch.
“Didn’t I already retire a couple of other times?” he joked. “The mind is willing but the body is just not able anymore. I think I may come out some days just to hang out with the guys.”
“He’s a true sportsman and gentleman,” Arleo said, and reminded Babb to consider coming back later in the season if the itch to play needed scratched.
There is a championship and trophies to be won the first week of February, but the league is devoted to providing an outlet for active seniors to stay in shape both physically and mentally while playing a game they love. As a result, strong and long-lasting friendships form, as evidenced as players arrived for the opening ceremonies.
The eight uniquely-colored teams are Koffee Kup, VFW Post 3227, Allstate, Marrero Jewelers, Green Thumb Graphics, Rental World, Pinch-A-Penny and, new to the league, Twin Lakes Community.
All players who turn 55 during the calendar year are welcome regardless of skill level. For information on the Osceola Senior Softball League, go to www.55plussoftball.com or contact league President Mike Rodriguez at 772-359-8415.