These “old guys” don’t like to sit around at home, even during the heat of the summer months. The Winterberry Athletic Field is their favorite place for “fitness” on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:15 to 10:15 AM. Twenty to thirty senior softball players gather to “crack the bat” and stay for the camaraderie; witty and silly bantering, and to hear cheers after a “bad hit.” They can’t wait to “break-in” the new dugouts and scorekeeper’s box.
It has been a very busy summer for the Winterberry Park athletic field as it gets readied for a clockwork of youth athletic groups such as the Little League, who play baseball; Marco Island Academy, who use the field for home games during the football and soccer seasons; and the Optimist Club of Marco Island who use the field for their Saturday soccer games. In addition, the Men’s Softball League and the Coed Softball League will begin their night games there in January.
Winterberry Park athletic field is also home to Marco Island’s Senior Softball League, for players aged 55 and older. Their season does not start until January, when they play almost every day with the three leagues (Island League, Marco League and Gulf Coast Division), utilizing the field from January to March. With a brief break, they resume their off-season pick-up games from April to December. This group of active seniors has been antsy since April, while the regular field has been undergoing major Post-Irma repairs.
“Use it or lose it.” For all the players, especially the age 80-plus players such as Ray Niemeyer (82), Dick DeAnna (81) and John Ranieri (88), there is a “fear” that they are going to “lose their athletic abilities” if more delays are incurred. Benefits experienced by all are improved mental capacity, balance, muscle tone and cardiovascular performance.
The park’s repairs from Hurricane Irma damage are in the final phase. According to Samantha Malloy, Marco Island’s Parks and Recreation Manager, “We’ve come a long way after all the damage we received from Hurricane Irma. The Park incurred damage to the soccer goals, batting cage, benches, dugouts, park signs, light poles, irrigation, and fencing.” In addition, “The drainage for the softball and little league field is almost complete and they are waiting for American Engineering to sign off on the project and Eli Contracting will need to fill in the seven small sink holes that appeared during an early storm in September.”
On the upside, Malloy is looking at the home stretch for the repairs and soon the community can get back to enjoying Winterberry Park fully. It is expected that next week the final touches to the dugouts and the scorekeeper’s box will be completed. Fences will be installed in front of the dugouts and the fields will be leveled.
For more information on the Marco Senior Softball League, visit the website at: www.marcoseniorsoftballleague.com.