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Can't beat fun at the old ballpark

Members of the Mazon alumni team Pat Vint (far left) and Danny Medler high five each other after coming off the field during Saturday's game against the current Mazon team. The current Mazon team is coached by Jeff Maierhofer (right).
Members of the Mazon alumni team Pat Vint (far left) and Danny Medler high five each other after coming off the field during Saturday's game against the current Mazon team. The current Mazon team is coached by Jeff Maierhofer (right).

So, for the first time in about eight years I got the chance to play the game of fastpitch softball Saturday. I was graciously given the opportunity to put together a team to play the current Mazon squad, this after it got done playing an alumni game against its former players.

The occasion is also for Mazon to raise funds for the next season.

“This is probably the 10th year that we’ve had this fundraiser. It actually didn’t start out to be a fundraiser,” Mazon manager Jeff Maierhofer said. “It started out as a way to get the older players, former players, back to play a game against the current players.”

Mazon is purported to be the “oldest continuous” fastpitch team in Illinois.

“We think it started in the early 40s. We have met some people whose grandparents played in the 1940s,” Maierhofer said. “At times, there has even been as many as three teams, but as far as having an organization, we are the longest and are continuous.”

While nobody from the 1940s was on hand to play for the Mazon alumni, several players of rare vintage, like Pat Vint and Skinny Matteson, were.

“It’s good for the young players on our team, the 18-, 19-, 20-year-old players,” Maierhofer said. “It’s good for them to see the family environment that it is and the chance to get together.”

Maierhofer said that the current Mazon team stays active these days.

“We probably played 25 games this year,” he said. “We have played as many as 40-50 games a year. We play in a fastpitch league in Forrest. We also travel. Two weeks ago we got back from the Des Moines and the NAFA National Tournament there. We’ve also played up in Wisconsin and a couple of tournaments up there. We also played in Chatsworth. There are still pockets of fastpitch. DeKalb still plays some and in Forrest there are teams.”

Yet facing the Mazon alumni is a challenge in and of itself.

“It’s probably one of the toughest games that we play all year because of all of the great players that have come through Mazon,” Maierhofer said. “For about two hours here, there are about as great as they ever were. They are tough because they are so crafty. They have always known about the finer points of fastpitch. It’s something that has stuck with them.”

For the record, the Mazon “old-timers” won – again.

“I think it’s the third year in a row in which we have lost,” Maierhofer said. “They have a great mix of guys who can still play the game very well.”

After the alumni game, Mazon played a team that I organized. Actually, it was as much organized by Coal City High School varsity baseball coach Jerry McDowell. He brought six of the guys who played on the team and I accounted for five.

It was a good group. A mix of younger players who had never played fastpitch before, some older players who had not played before and then a couple of “old-timers” like me who hadn’t played in years.

It was a real treat. Ernie Pitts started the game for the team I have referred to as the “powder blues” since those were the nameless and numberless shirts we wore on Saturday. Pitts then gave way to Kevin Hayhurst who took us home.

We didn’t win, but it was a fun get-together for an afternoon. A chance to watch former teammates and opposition players play against each other and then to play alongside and against others who used to also be my teammates.

I tip my cap to Mazon for letting us be a part of their annual celebration. Hopefully we will be asked back next year.

“It’s been a privilege to play for this team,” Maierhofer said.

As well as play against.

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