Senior softball a family affair
Marco Island Men’s Senior Softball season is officially underway. For the next three months, 14 teams in three divisions will fiercely battle it out on the field.
But while the men go at it on the field, their wives fill the stands, rooting for their husbands’ team, knowing the real story behind their love of the game.
Most members of the teams got involved when, vacationing on Marco, they drove past Winterberry Park and saw a bunch of older men playing softball.
“This is a family affair,” said Kathy Reich, adding that being a softball wife has dramatically changed her life. “The team gets really close and so do the wives.”
The teams share the field three times a week, competing for a big trophy and name recognition.
The two leagues are the Island Division and the Marco Division. A third, the Legends League, was just added. October is the start of practice season when managers scout a player’s skill levels. In November, they finalize their teams through a competitive draft process.
Hear it from some players’ wives.
Teams get close
Linda Schwab’s husband, Michael, plays center field on the Brewery team.
“It’s a blast,” said Linda, whose husband was on a different team last year. The team motto is, “Win or loose you drink the booze.” Linda agreed with Kathy that you get really close with the other wives and she is looking forward to this year.
Jim George is the manager for the Sand Bar team and also pitches. Last week, the Georges had a party at their house so the players and wives to meet. Every year, teams have a new group of players.
Mary Ellen George said she and Jim started dating in the 11th grade.
“That’s how far back we go,” said Mary Ellen. Jim taught high school for 33 years and also coached sports, she said...
“He loves to play softball,” said Mary Ellen. “I am not an athlete ... I’m a spectator.” She said they both stayed up all night before the first game.
“We knew we weren’t going to sleep we were both so nervous about the game in the morning,” she said.
Even though it’s competitive during the game, after it’s over, many of the team members and their wives get together socially. If a husband’s team doesn’t win, the wives have to pick their husbands up, said Mary Ellen.
“It’s fun to play the game, but they really want to win,” she said.
Judy Peterson watched intently as her husband, Ron, stepped up to bat. Ron Peterson is an Iowa Senior Olympics Hall of Fame and a four-time national champion senior slow-pitch softball player. Judy said watching their husbands play ball makes the wives feel young again.
“My husband has played for so many years, I really don’t want to divulge how many,” she said, laughing.
Becky Dumbauld has been watching her husband play baseball since he was in the seventh grade.
“Women didn’t play sports when I was growing up in Ohio,” said Becky.
Jon and Connie Wiseman are from Newfoundland, Canada, and winter on Marco. Dan Gulick and his wife, Kyle, are from Michigan. This is Dan’s first year playing slow-pitch softball.
Tammy Stewart and her husband, Jim, arrive on Marco in October from Springfield, Ill., just so he can participate in softball practice.
Each player hopes he will be included in the draft.
“This is serious business,” said Tammy, laughing as she watched her husband out on the field. This is Jim’s second year. Last year he was with Nacho Mamma’s, said Tammy.
“All the guys want to be young again and have a good time,” she said. “Wives are here to support our husbands and socialize.”
Games played later in the day usually include lunch at the Sand Bar or the Brewery. Her favorite thing is meeting people from all over the country.
Karen Dumontier married Jim Gilligan two years ago in November. She said they had to postpone their honeymoon so he could finish the season. Jim plays on the Brewery team.
When asked what it is like being a player’s wife, Karen quickly replied, “It’s like being the mother of an 8-year-old. We prepare, we exercise, we eat right, and we get his outfit laid out for morning. After the game, we head to the Brewery with the team to either celebrate or drink away the sorrows.”
Jeanette Dorey played football on opposite teams with her husband in the fourth grade back in Michigan.
“You know we are all married to 12-year-old boys,” she said. “He used to ride a bicycle to the game as a kid, and now when we leave in a car we can all go drink beer.”
In March both the Island League and the Marco League have a dinner dance at the culmination of season at Naples Lakes Resort referred to as The Senior Prom. Every year it’s sold out, so the wives make sure they get tickets early.