When it comes to softball Domenick Fiorda, John Ranieri and Mark Nahabedian have the passion.
Pretty good for Ranieri and Fiorda, who are 82 and Nahabedian, 88.
Stalwarts of the Marco Island Senior Softball League, each has received a Sportsman Award, created by Nick Brooks, fellow league member.
Nahabedian just hung up his glove this season. He renewed his passion for softball at 80.
"I was watching a game and the commissioner asked me if I wanted to play," he recalls. "The guys were amazed, I could outrun half of them and a I had a heck of a glove."
He takes pride in playing second base for five years and only making seven errors. He roamed the outfield and played catcher during two years, making just one error at each position.
Nahabedian was wounded in World War II and during recovery played fast pitch softball "without a glove in left field." Thirty years before joining Marco softball he played 16-inch in Chicago.
"My God, playing softball again was one of the greatest things in my life, other than my three daughters and my wife Helen of 63 years," he said.
Ranieri's Joey's Pizza and Fiorda's Crazy Flamingo battled to the end on Thursday in a Senior Softball game.
Joey's led early, but Flamingo took the lead in the fifth, Joey's battled back to tie the game in the sixth at 9-9. Ranieri started the winning rally with a base hit and scored, then scored again as a pinch runner. Going into the bottom of the seventh Flamingo trailed 14-9.
Fiorda got a base hit and scored, but the rally died at 14-11.
Fiorda was one of the founding members of the league in 2000. Fiorda remembers the inaugural season.
"We only had 22 guys, with the teams sponsored by Winn Dixie and Publix," Fiorda said. "Now we have 12 teams with 180 players."
Ages go from 55 to in the 80s. There are two divisions, Island and Marco. Games are very competitive, but friendly.
"A Common Thread," authored by friend Kendra Brady and Fiorda, was given to the players in 2011 that was about 115 players who came together to play the game.
Fiorda introduced senior softball to Ranieri in 2002.
Ranieri had never played softball.
In his early years he concentrated on working to help the family and later his own.
"You want to play ball, get a mitt and shoes," Ranieri recalls Fiorda saying.
Fiorda hangs out at shortstop, Ranieri plays second base.
Yes, 82, playing shortstop. On Thursday he scooped up the ball and threw to first before the first baseman got there. It was like a pro quarterback throwing the ball where the player should be.
At their ages they play hurt, but "I think the body wants it, it wants the exercise (not the bruises)" he said. "They can bury my ashes at shortstop."
For Ranieri, "I am having the time of my life. I go to bed every night thinking about playing the next day."
He is good on defense but his speed is what amazes.
Brooks said, "John is one of the fastest and surely fastest 82-year-old anywhere."
In the Thursday game, Ranieri got a base hit and raced around the bases to score. In the same inning, where players are allowed to run for players who may have a problem, he got on base and scored again. In the decisive inning he scored again.
Ranieri said, "I get called a lot to sub in for other teams and I go, I love the game."