If you need proof behind the adage “Age is just a number,” then go to the Fortune Road Athletic Complex on one of the next few Mondays or Fridays around 9 a.m.
That’s when and where the Osceola Senior Softball League meets and plays. Every member is over 55, some of them are pushing 75 … and likely will do more active stuff by lunch time on Mondays and Fridays than most of us will do all day long.
Still going strong in its 27th year, the league held its Opening Day on Friday (Nov. 1) with the usual fan fare: a couple of speeches, a parade of the teams, a ceremonial first pitch from a sponsor or local leader, and an award of some sort.
This year the league recognized its founder, Leo Viti, with a commemorative plaque of appreciation for getting the league going. Leo was a founder member, played for over 15 years, and his name is still on most of the players’ lips each day.
Viti, now 86, still makes appearances to cheer on old friends and teammates, but those are rarer as the years go by; his Opening Day appearances was his first on that day in a while.
“It’s like a family that keeps playing together,” Viti said. “We started as a rag-tag group, and I don’t think the city founders were very high on us.”
The OSSL started out playing on the two City of Kissimmee fields at Denn John Park behind Valencia College. And they kept playing. And the kept together. Eventually, they’ve formed into a 501(c)3 non-profit that runs and governs itself, and is independent from Kissimmee’s Parks and Recreation department aside from a field use agreement with the city.
But the city is still one of the league’s biggest supporters; Parks & Rec Associate Director Steve Lackey threw out the first pitch — showing why he won’t pitch once he gets old enough to play with these guys — with a big grin on his face.
“They’re unique in that they’re not with us, but they do what they do great,” he said. “These guys are fantastic.”
This year the two divisions are named after members who passed away during the offseason, Pete Edwards and Julio Rivera. In addition, each jersey bears the name of another longtime member and league sponsor, Harry Canavesi.
The league is as much about its sponsors as its players, and this year’s eight teams are sponsored by Marrero’s Jewelers, Allstate, Koffee Kup, Twin Lakes, Pinch A Penny, Green Thumb, Rental World and VFW Post 3227.
All seniors are welcome regardless of skill level or place of residence, as long as you are 55 or turning 55 in the calendar year you being playing. There’s talent on the field; despite advanced age these guys, by and large, can still play. Many are on teams in competitive leagues that play elsewhere in the area, but the OSSL mission is one of creating a safe place for seniors to enjoy a healthy recreational outlet. The games are competitive, but the feeling of fun never leaves the basepaths.
Usually the league runs from January to April, but since the Fortune Road fields will be booked solid starting in March, this edition of Senior Softball will wrap up its playoffs and crown a champion on Feb. 28.
After the season, pickup games are played Monday and Friday from mid-March to December at Denn John Softball Complex in Kissimmee.
For information on the league, check out its in-depth website at 55plussoftball.com (and learn about the characters that make up the league, with a a small serious side) or contact Mike Rodriguez at 772-359-8415 for general information or Jim Parker at 321-333-2012 for pickup games.