The Nashua Senior Softball League is the 'senior' circuit
NASHUA -- From May through mid-September, seniors from at least three states flock here to compete in the Nashua Senior Softball League, a circuit for men 60 and older.
"There is no limit on how old you can be," said the league's president, Bob Lavoie, 71, of Nashua. "And every year we have gotten bigger. We started with 16 people and two teams nine years ago. Now we have nine teams."
More than 105 men gathered earlier this month for spring training at Yudicky Field so team captains could figure out whom to draft for the season, which opened May 13. The games hadn't even begun, and already the competitive juices were flowing.
"The first priority is to have fun, and the second is competition, but it doesn't always work out that way," said Dale Sterns, 71, of Derry, a former league president.
Nevertheless, most players cite friendship, along with the love of the game, as the primary draw.
"It's a lot of fun. This is a great bunch of guys," said Bill Ohm, 66, of Nashua.
"The camaraderie and competition keeps me coming back," added Jerry Ferullo, 65, of Haverhill, Mass. "It's better than sitting at home and watching TV."
Jim Gavin, 82, of Litchfield, agreed. Gavin recently moved back to New Hampshire from Florida and was looking for a group activity in keeping with his love of sports. His son told him about the NSSL.
"It keeps me in good condition, and I love to play," Gavin said.
Whether fitness is the main reason for participating or simply a fringe benefit to the social activity, all the league's players seem to agree the league is good for their health.
"This is my first time playing softball in almost 40 years," said Steve Ulicny, 75, of Amherst, "and I think this is great for old-timers. If they were not here, they would be at McDonald's drinking coffee. Obesity in the senior age group is so high, and this keeps us active."
Ohm and John Cebrowski, 74, of Bedford, agreed, saying many seniors don't want to go to a gym or use exercise equipment but still love to play sports. Harold Murphy, a 65-year-old Louisiana transplant living in Nashua, said softball helped save his life after he suffered two heart attacks.
"Now if only my enthusiasm matched my ability, I would be a hell of a good player," he said.
Despite their age, many of the men can still run well, and many of the players swing a heavy bat.
Steve Brzozowski, 63, of Goffstown, said he finds it reassuring to see men older than he is run faster, hit the ball farther and generally play better than younger men.
"My high school principal is in this league," Brzozowski said. "He's 20 years old than me, and he is one of the league's best pitchers. It's encouraging to see some of these old guys hit hard and pitch well. You can't make assumptions. Just because a guy is old doesn't mean he doesn't hit a ton."
With most of its players retirees, the NSSL plays in the morning on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A registered nonprofit, the league plays on city fields and charges a $75 membership fee to pay for equipment and uniforms. For safety reasons, its rules vary slightly from standard softball regulations. For example, a double first base and a double home plate are used to limit collisions.
The action doesn't end with the playoffs in September. During the offseason, players conduct workouts at an indoor facility in Bedford - the more the merrier.
"We are always taking new members," league president Lavoie said.
For more on the league, go to nashuaseniorsoftball.org.
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