Senior softball league helps 90-year-old celebrate birthday
By DEBRA WALLACE
Jul. 19, 2017
HATFIELD, Pa. (AP) — On a perfect summer day, some 50 senior softball players gathered on the infield to honor one of their original members on the occasion of his 90th birthday.
The special event for Angelo Malizia's July 11 birthday was the ideal opportunity for celebration among the members of his team, the Mavericks, and the competing team the Magics, as well as many of his other friends in the tight-knit Montgomery County Senior Softball League.
"I believe that the game keeps me young. I love catching and I love anything that keeps me moving," Malizia said before taking the field. "I will run as long as the hit takes me."
The engaging nonagenarian, who has been playing ball since high school, was given an engraved plaque commemorating his 19 years of playing in the league, and his milestone birthday. Jim Binsberger, of Perkasie, praised Malizia, of Harleysville, for being such an active player at age 90.
"I have played with Angelo for many years, and he has always been a competitive player and taught all of us how to play and what to do," Binsberger said. "He is a true inspiration."
The plaque was inscribed: "Angelo, a 90-year wonder. July 11, 2017, Montgomery County Senior Softball League."
League Commissioner John Frantz said Malizia is the first active player in the league to be playing at age 90. "It's an amazing feat and Angelo is an amazing person."
There were eight players when the league was formed in 1999. Now there are 180 players, ages 60 and older, in three divisions, who come to School Road Park in Hatfield Township.
The 16 teams, in three divisions, play Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon during the months of April through October, unless they are rained out or the heat index climbs too high. There is also a travel team that plays on Friday and Saturday. In addition, there are several family picnics and social events throughout the year.
They are a diverse group of guys, many who are retired, many who are Vietnam veterans, and they have a wide range of interests and careers. The men share a love of the game, a competitive spirit and a great bond of friendship.
Ron Klunk, 74, hadn't played ball for 45 years when he joined the league five seasons ago. A business broker from Lansdale, he said he instantly felt at home.
"I felt like a Little Leaguer my first year here, but I quickly saw that everybody is welcoming and will help you out."
Mavericks player John Charles Lancaster, 69, of Upper Gwynedd, lost his arm in Vietnam some 49 years ago while serving in the Army, and has been playing with the local league for 13 years.
"I enjoy the camaraderie of playing with the guys. It's for the love of the game. Angelo is a super guy and a great teammate. Where else can you join an organization and instantly have 180 friends?"
Bob Weaver retired in 2002 and found himself mowing the lawn and running household errands. Then, 13 years ago, he found the league and was smitten.
"I love it. I think it is really great. It extended my happiness during my retirement. It's all about playing," Weaver said. "No one cares what's in your wallet, what kind of car you drive or what you did for a living — mail man, teacher, electrician, contractor, business executive or anything else — it's about friendship and playing the game."
It appears that nothing gets in the way of America's pastime. Many of the players have had illnesses or ailments that slowed them down, but they always find their way back to the field.
Malizia had a heart valve replaced about a year and a half ago, took the winter season off, and played well the summer after his operation. "Today is a milestone. The tribute today was wonderful, and I'm not going to stop," he said.
He said he played baseball in the US Army, where his team won the championship. "I have played everywhere that I worked and all over the state," Malizia said. He and Vic Zoldy, another avid softball player, were in Softball America before they started the Montgomery County Senior Softball League.
"We started playing in empty lots and when I saw School Road Park with the fence and the dug out," Malizia said, "I knew we had found a home."
As a result of his great love for the game, he encouraged his grandsons to be athletes, and it worked. In fact, most of them went to college on athletic scholarships. "They all practiced in my big back yard. I purposely never planted anything to get in the way, and it was big enough to play both football and baseball. I don't think I ever missed one of their games."
He encourages families to get their children involved in sports, to learn how to be a team player and make lifelong friends, just like the guys in his league. "When they get out of school, they have friends they were raised with, and everyone has the same values."
He said he was always the coach on the field and has always been competitive. Even with two bad rotator cuffs and a bad knee, "I have always tried as hard as I can, and I always will."
Malizia said he truly appreciated the tribute from his softball pals. "I have played with these guys for so many years and I know them all," he said with a smile. "These guys rely on you and you rely on them, and that never goes away. There is nothing we wouldn't do for one another."
Information from: The Intelligencer, http://www.theintell.com