March 16, 2004 > Forever Young at Heart: The California Rockers
Forever Young at Heart: The California Rockers
by Susana Nuņez
"You should see some of these old ladies slide!" exclaims an enthusiastic Pat Crossen of the California Rockers softball team. Whenever her passion for playing ball surfaces, she leaves bystanders speechless, including those that have been lured into the conversation by her friendly voice and magnetic personality. She adds, "How many fifty five plus women or fifty plus women do you see out there playing softball...it's pretty weird, but it's exciting." The California Rockers play throughout the year and have a fourth place finish at the Senior Olympics to their name, demonstrating that they can still pitch, hit, and run the bases just as well as the thirty and forty year old youngsters.
Pitcher Pat Crossen, 58, and first/third baseman and team manager Peg Harmon, 58, were once a part of a team known as the Nor Cal Stars. That team dissolved three years ago, but not before working their way up to the competing in the Senior Olympics. Inspired by JoAnne DiMaggio, the famous baseball player Joe Dimaggio's niece and trained by an incredible coach, Lou Profumo, Harmon says she was "in her element," playing skilled, first class softball.
Coach Profumo, who played professional baseball with the Boston Red Sox organization, shared his expertise and knowledge of techniques and strategy with the team. "Lou Profumo was the one who helped us out by showing us what to do in certain situations; how to hit the ball, how to keep your form, and how to be a better outfielder and how to be a better infielder. You just lap it up because you want to know," says Harmon. The team was one of the two chosen to represent California in the Senior Olympics (also known as the National Senior Games).
The road to the Senior Olympics was arduous. Tournament followed tournament throughout California and the Nor Cal Stars compiled an impressive record of wins. In 1998, they traveled to Florida to play against team after team ... and beat team after team. The Nor Cal Stars made it into the bronze medal game, where they faced the reigning champions, the Golden Girls of Virginia.
Crossen reminisces about the event that put the Nor Cal Stars on the map... "I never felt our team play so intensely and we ended up beating them 11 to 2. It was huge! We were so excited. We had been at the Disneyworld Orlando Park from 9 a.m. and we won this game at 10 p.m. I mean we were tired - very, very tired - and had to play the gold medal game right after that game."
"We were so exhausted, the other team had had rest; there had been rain and thunderstorms and lightning and you don't want to go out there with a metal bat! The game began and we were still so exhausted; the game was against a team called the Second Wind. They beat us in the gold medal round so we took the silver; that was our first and only silver medal from the Olympics." Following the championship, the Nor Cal Stars began to "weed out" those who didn't want to be pressured by high expectations. The California Rockers were born!
Aside from the lure of competition, what draws these women to senior softball? Camaraderie between team members and the large senior softball community appears to be a major factor. There is a special bond between teammates and rival team members who share a love of the game. Sharing a passion for the game brings senior softball players together, but when it's time to play, these women know how to get back into slugger mode!
Through weekly practice and consistent batting and field play, the California Rockers have been able to consistently place in the top four in tournaments which may include sixteen or more competitive teams. At a recent national Senior Olympic competition, they placed fourth out of 26 teams who qualified to compete. One problem facing the Rockers is the size of the team. Since tournaments often require travel time and some expense, the California Rockers need more experienced softball players to expand their roster. They are currently looking for at least five new members, ages 47 - 59. Tournaments often include many games during a day of competition and a larger player roster will allow rest periods for team members. Pat cautions that softball/ baseball skills are required for new members, since the team competes at the national level every season and there is little time at practice sessions for learning basic skills of the game.
The California Rockers invites local companies and individuals to sponsor their team by helping to defray some of the expenses. Tournament entry fees are usually $350 - $450. Currently, team members contribute towards this expense plus travel, housing and meal costs.
The "girls" of the California Rockers have boldly declared that they will "play until they are carried off the field." As Peg says, "Sometimes we realize people our age are dead, but it's a beautiful day and we're in it!"
For more information about joining the team or sponsorships, call California Rockers manager, Peg Harmon (510) 794-3481 or Pat Crossen (510) 742-2430.