The Thrill Of The GameBy Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, September 27, 2006
North Adams - Victory evaded the Forever Young women's softball team during a Sept. 16 Senior Olympics Summer Games softball competition but the experience left the 13 teammates feeling like they'd gained much more than they lost, said team founder Nancy Bullett.
|Some of the Forever Young women's softball team members at an Aug. 1 practice.|
"We won just by being there," Bullett said during a Sept. 27 interview. "It was a winning game no matter what the score."
The games were played at Springfield College. The city team faced a team from eastern Connecticut and a team from Long Island N.Y.. The Connecticut team scored 11 runs to the city team's two, and the city players fell to the Long Island team 14-7.
Great In The Outfield
The Forever Young players delivered stand-out performances in the outfield and hitting, said Bullett and team co-coach Pat Robare.
"Our team did very well offensively and defensively," said Bullett. "Our weakness was pitching."
Senior games regulations impose a specific pitching technique called the "slow pitch" be used during the games. Team members were not well-schooled with the technique, Bullett and Robare said.
"The other teams won with a lot of unearned runs, meaning we walked them, they took the walks, and they walked the runs in," Bullett said.
But pitching skills can be taught and learned, and Bullett has made contact with someone who may be able to work with the team to strengthen their slow pitch skills, she said. And Robare said that she has begun researching the technique.
"Our fielding and hitting was great," Robare said. "Once we master the slow pitch, we'll be very competitive."
50 And Over
Team members are all age 50 or older.
The player roster includes Bullett, 51, Pauline Ellsworth, 50, Caroline Burch, 52, Marilyn Kleiner, 61, Karen Levesque, 50, Juliette Flynt, 55, Nancy Bassi, 64, and the "over 50s" Shirley Valotta, Barb Tassone, Carol Boucher, Kathy Millard, and Karen Daigle. Joanne Harvey assisted Robare with team coaching. The players live in Clarksburg, North Adams, Williamstown, Adams, Cheshire, and Stamford, Vt..
Bullett organized the team after state games coordinator Carl Fetteroll read a July 2005 Boston Globe interview that featured Bullett. Fetteroll contacted Bullett and asked if she would be interested in assembling a team; Bullett's response was an eager affirmative.
The team earned a bronze medal as the senior games third-place team. This was the first year that the state senior games offered women's softball.
The Real Deal
The tournament was originally scheduled for June but flooding caused by heavy rains forced a postponement.
"We had built ourselves up for the June date and then it was postponed way into September," Bullett said. "Once we got [to Springfield College], the heart rates went up. We saw the umpire and we knew it was the real deal. The energy from our ladies was just up, exhilarated."
The New York and Connecticut team players were outstanding athletes, Bullett said.
"These ladies were unbelievable," she said. "Some of the ladies on the other teams were in their 70s; I'm thinking I'm almost 52 and I've got another 20 years of playing. The competitive feeling is so good. When I hit a single, and then a triple, it was competitive. One of the other team members hit a home run right out of the park."
The Forever Young team plans to compete during the 2007 senior summer games, Bullett said. An Oct. 19 team dinner has been scheduled at the Stamford Community Golf Course.
"We'll be talking about how everything went, and what we can do differently," she said. "We'll also be talking about funding Nationals and about who is going to commit to it. We'll be talking about fundraisers and resources, and then we'll probably talk about scheduling a Christmas party."
New Women's Softball League
Bullett said that she will be launching a city over-40 women's softball league for the upcoming softball season. The league will use the slow pitch format, she said.
"I've let the city parks and recreation department know that there will be a new league in town," Bullett said. "That's something that came out of this that's exciting."
The team has been invited to compete in softball tournaments in Long Island and Connecticut, Bullett said.
The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts allowed the team to practice at a college-owned athletic complex on West Shaft Road. Team members had worked out at a city-based Curves site operated by Harvey. The site closed earlier this year. City businessman David Bond allowed indoor practice at a Union Street batting cage he operates over 2005-2006 winter.
"We really appreciate all the support that people gave us," Bullett said.
Never About A Medal
The love of the game and the team camaraderie mean as much as any medal, Bullett said.
"It was never about a medal, it was always about the game," she said. "Out of all this, some old friendships have been rekindled and new ones have begun. It's a good feeling. There couldn't be a better group of ladies."
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or at 802-823-9367.