PARMA - Age may be just a number and nobody proves that more than the 200 or so members of a softball league in Northeast Ohio. The senior citizens are in a 'league of their own' when it comes to the highly competitive sport of softball.
There is Goloja, Hassel, Novak and Schilling. They may not be household names, but when it comes to softball, they are the faces of a Huff and Puffers league in Parma.
“We’d like to think that it’s a fun league, but sometimes you’d never know,” said Dave Marek, Huff and Puffers League President.
The Huff and Puffers is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.
“I don’t know how they got their name,” said George Cox who has been in the league for 24 years.
The league is comprised of men 60 years of age and older.
“I retired in 2009. I saw an ad in the newspaper that there was a senior softball league and I hadn’t played softball in 30 years so I thought I would come out and give it a try,” said 67-year-old Don Evans.
The oldest member is 92-year-old George Cox of Middleburg Heights.
“I just keep on going until I go and if I have to go, I’ll go on the ball field,” said Cox.
The league has 16 teams and is split into two divisions: junior and senior. The division you play in is based on your ability, not your age.
“We’re all saying in the off-season that this is friendly and friendly league but yeah, it’s very competitive,” Evans said.
These teams start playing in May and finish in the middle of September. They play twice a week on Monday and Thursday mornings. There are tryouts at the beginning of the season and managers hand out grades at the end of the year before next season’s draft.
“This is absolutely incredible. My dad is 72 and he definitely takes a page from some of those older players; they are an inspiration for sure,” said Danielle Kraljevic of San Diego, California.
Don’t let these guys fool you, they are having fun but just like any game, they have their differences.
“Well we are undergoing a protest right now that we have been talking about all morning and we can’t quite figure out what the hell the play was,” Marek said.
Sure the Huff and Puffers have their disagreements and heated exchanges on the diamond and yes this league is about camaraderie but most importantly it’s a chance for these grown men to turn back the clock.
“Retirement, as well as playing ball and I drive for Lolly the Trolley, yeah, it’s like being a kid again,” said Evans.
Just like any other league, the Huff and Puffers have a playoff at the end of the season before wrapping it up with an end of the year banquet.