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August 19, 2009 > Seniors play hardball, take home gold

Seniors play hardball, take home gold

By David Nicolas
Photos By submitted by Mike Sinnott

In the second inning of the Senior Games' semifinal match of the women's silver softball division in Sunnyvale, Rocker third basemen Peg Harmon took a ball off of her face. Play was suspended for minutes, and when it seemed that the Rockers couldn't recover from their departed captain, the resilient team bounced back and propelled themselves into the championship game.

On Wednesday, August 12, Fremont's California Rockers beat O'Neil's Senior Moments of Connecticut to take home gold medals in the 2009 Senior Games. Harmon, nursing her black eye, watched the championship game from the Rocker bench.

"No one, including ourselves, expected to win," Harmon said of the victory. "If we were judged as a team on how often we won, we wouldn't be considered a team. This was just so special to see everyone with big smiles and gold medals."

The Rockers were one of 12 teams competing in the 50-and-above Division for softball. The tournament began on Monday, August 10, when teams played preliminary games to be placed in either the gold or silver division. After two losses to teams that later went on the gold division, the Rockers were put into the silver division.

They were given the second seed and swept their competition.

"It was very exciting. I was happy for all of us because we worked so hard and put so many hours into it," Harmon said. "There's never a guarantee that you will ever see anything for your hard work."

Every Sunday leading into the Games, Harmon packed her VW Bus with a pitching screen, buckets of balls, a canvas bag of bases and a field rake, and hauled them to Los Cerritos Community Park in Fremont. Lawyers, teachers, business folk and retirees came from all over the Bay Area to play a sport they loved.

For many of the Rockers, senior softball was the their first experience with the game. Lou Profumo, a former professional baseball player within the Boston Red Sox organization and friend of Harmon, decided to share his baseball knowledge with the team.

"They hated the Ted Williams drill, but always had a super attitude. Attendance at practice was always 90-100 percent, it was great seeing all of them out there," Profumo said.

Most of the women on the Rockers are in their 50s; five are over 60. Seeing entire teams tower near-6 feet in height seemed to add more outs for the Rockers' opposing teams. What brought left fielder and backup shortstop Katy Brady to the team was how it dealt with the adversity.

"We really try to go out, focus and play the game," Brady said of the competition at the Games. "If you play good solid defense, and have a good pitcher, you can keep it close. We just try to do the best we can no matter who we are playing."

This is the positive attitude that the Rockers brought to a strong and later gold-ranked Kentucky Phillies team.

"They didn't expect anything from us. In the first inning there was a single, double, triple, a home run and another triple," Brady said. "It woke them up. It showed that we can play with anyone."

The Rockers were excited to show the hometown crowd that they deserved to be at the Games. They earned a spot to compete by taking second place in the California Senior Games and being the second division winner in the Huntsman World Senior Games in Utah in 2008.

All participants in the 18 competitive sports and seven demonstration sports of the 2009 Senior Games needed to be born before December 31, 1958. Most of the events took place at the main venue in Stand University in Palo Alto, but the Rockers played at the Twin Creeks Sports Complex in Sunnyvale.

As a woman in the 1950s, as softball's popularity in the U.S. rose, many of the club teams and recreational opportunities for them didn't even exist. Most females could do nothing but sit and watch and their young male friends pick ground balls or run the bases.

Harmon didn't allow her gender to prevent her from playing the game.

"The boys didn't want you to play. But if you beat them up or pass some test, climb a fence or throw a ball from here to there, it was fine," Harmon said.

With determination and unity, the Rockers passed a test they'll never forget.

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