SLIDESHOW: Nifty and 50: Plateau area league keeps hearts young and friends close

Hitting long balls, tossing strikes, fielding flies, staying in shape and having fun – it’s all part of the Wednesday night summer ritual for more than 80 men who suit up and play in the White River Community Activities Program 50-and-over slow pitch, softball league.

“We have a lot of fun,” said Harlen Ward of Auburn, who’s been playing for 21 years. At 70, he falls somewhere between the 50-year-old minimum and the 80-year-olds who run the bases like teenagers. Ward oversees play for the former White Horse Tavern team that is sponsored, this year, by a Tukwila-based daycare. He laughs and calls the team the Crybabies.

They weren’t shedding any tears in their 20-3 opening win against the Ancient Mariners.

The WRCAP program has seven teams in its 50-and-older league, which draws players from across the Puget Sound area. They square off in 18 double-headers every Wednesday from June through mid-August at Buckley’s city fields.

Dennis Mullens comes from Parkland to play with his friends. He, like several others, plays on more than one team a couple of nights a week, including a team with a number of fathers and sons.

“That’s the fun part about softball,” he said. “You can go out and play with your sons.”

Several, like Art Bashbro, play on other senior-based teams in the Northwest. He’s set up a Web site

Buckley’s Dennis Ross heads the Carnino’s 1 team, sponsored by Cascade Veterinary Clinic.

He’s a second-generation diamondman.

“My dad and Jack Peoples started the league,” Ross said between innings.

He started the Carnino team about eight years ago in memory of John Carnino. Carnino’s wife Mary, who was watching from the stands said, he played for “years and years and years.”

Many of those who play in the 50 and over league have been taking the field for years.

“He started playing when our daughter was four and she’s 32 now,” said Lynn Simms, who’s husband David “Homer” Simms plays catcher for the Carnino’s team.

The average age of a Carnino’s player is 57, and this year there was enough interest in its team that it started a second.

“This is the only 50-and-over league in the state of Washington,” Bob Justice said.

There’s a camaraderie among the ballplayers and the crowd – wives, children, grandchildren and friends – clapping and cheering under the setting sun.

John Pistilli was in the opposing dugout with Washington Marble Works against the Carnino’s. He’s a former Carnino’s player who started his own team with family and friends. The Carnino’s won the first game 20-11.

Competitive, yes. Good exercise, of course. Fun, you bet.

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