Sunday, December 13, 2015

43 Years at the Center of Somers Slow Pitch Softball

Almost 40 years ago this summer, a Harlem Globetrotter-like six man traveling all-star team of windmill softball players arrived to entertain a packed park of Somers Residents and drub whoever the town could put up as players. Little did the California Cuties, in their comedic get up as girls, know they would run up against a 53 year old Somers founding member of the Somers Slow Pitch Softball League. So while he didn’t get the win, his showing did earn the last laugh and represents one moment of many as a player, administrator and manager over 43 years.
“I pitched the first three innings,” says 91 year old Stan Piekarski who left the game tied at one.

The Cuties, having the run of the park after Piekarski ran out of gas, a return the next summer had the Shenorock resident up to the task. “I was ready this time,” he says beating them 2-0.

But Somers softball began officially in 1972.  A postal employee and part time sports writer, Piekarski had moved here from Yonkers and left his fast pitch days down county. “There were a bunch of factories in Yonkers that had industrial leagues,” said Piekarski, and mid 40s was too old for fast pitch and too young to quit, he added.

At the same time, many of the guys he tried to enlist in Somers Slow Pitch deferred. “They thought it was a sissy game,” he remembers.

His longtime friend and brain trust beside him on the Hudson Valley Beverage bench was the first to draw up the paper work. “Bob Jazwinski formed the league,” he says.

Not necessarily looking to lead, his insights at some of the early meetings prompted the others to ask him if he would run the league. Reigning for the first eight years, it began with five “A” and ”B” league teams, while the Rec Department gave the men autonomy over the course of a 16 game schedule. “Just run it the best you can,” he was told by Earl Morehouse of the Parks Department.

The main field currently used was their single field and nightfall the curfew.  The pile of rocks and uneven surface behind the short right field fence was eventually smoothed over by Ralph Boniello. “They did all the work voluntarily,” he says.

Lights were the next upgrade in 1976, and the league expanded to 16 teams and two games per night. They mostly kept the eligibility to Somers residents but allowed grandfathered in players who played previous years and moved out of town.   

Eventually fields were built on the top, four games a night were played and the league expanded to 34 teams in the 1990s. Allowing players in from other towns, he said, “The league got too big.”

Restrictions eventually put in place, 23 teams now participate in a 24 game scheduled – plus playoffs. Happy with the smaller size, he believes the high entry fee is hurting the league long term. “The cost is so high that high school and college kids cannot afford the price so the league is getting older,” he said.

On his team, which his sons Rob and Tommy still round out his roster, it means station to station softball. “We have to get four hits in a row to get a run,” he jokes.

As such, he hung up his cleats at 72. After placing two consecutive line drives between the deep infield and drawn in outfield, slow a foot translated to outs at first.  “I can’t hit it better than that,” he realized it was time.

But his thinking cap still gets its due in making strategy with his longtime Shenorock neighbor, while his wife brings brownies to each game.  “Age is catching up with me but I’m at every game,” he concludes.

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