Playoffs: Hot action

A brief time in a shady dugout while watching a game against a team from M&N Sports, is shared by Pine Street Eatery team players, from left, Joe Martinoli, 62, of Merrimack; Larry Milana, 64, of Manchester; Johnny Peterman, 67, of Springfield and Ray Floryan, 70, of Amherst.

A morning of free fun is a sure bet for spectators at the Nashua Senior Softball League playoffs, feisty competitions for guys age 60 and up.

The playoffs at Yudicky Field on Route 111A in Nashua begin at 9:30 a.m., on Monday, Sept 18. They continue on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from Sept. 18 through Oct. 4. After that, the 36-game season … it’s outta here!

Word from Joe Martinoli, a Merrimack resident and pitcher for the Pine Street Eatery team, reveals that the bottom four teams will play on Friday morning, Sept. 15, in a seeding effort – a qualification round of sorts.

“The remaining six teams have a bye,'” Martinoli said. “The playoffs then begin on Monday, Sept. 18. My team, Pine Street Eatery, finished sixth. We’ll play the third-seeded team, IMEC (Innovative Mechanical Engineering and Contracting, of Ayer, Mass.).”

Martinoli said the IMEC team, coached by a former Army Ranger officer, has the fastest guy in the league, who also has the strongest arm in the league.

“They clobbered us three times,” Martinoli said. “However, pitching as a substitute for a team that needed a pitcher, I beat them a couple weeks ago. I feel we will be

underestimated. I’m looking forward to the match up!”

Trophy presentations and a league banquet wrap up the season, sometime after the final playoff game on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

Already, the M&N Sports team is ranked on the league website as the season’s highest scoring team, one with 25 wins and 11 losses. The players are sponsored by M&N Sports in Nashua.

The league’s 122 senior softball players seemingly embrace a league slogan, “We do not stop playing because we grow old; We grow old because we stop playing.”

The quote comes from Satchel Paige, a renowned African American player who passed in 1982 with accolades as the best pitcher in baseball history.

The NSS league has members from Nashua, Bedford, Merrimack, Hollis and other towns. Nobody minds a short hop to Nashua.

Next year’s season is expected to follow tradition and span April through early October – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the morning.

Nashua’s Bob Lavoie, 75, league president, recently said players in their 80s participate. A modest membership fee includes a team jersey and other perks.

“Word of mouth is how we’ve grown,” Lavoie said. “Over the last five years, we’ve grown from a five-team league to a 10-team league.”

John Chase, 63, vice-president of the NSS, is now in the bottom of the eighth of a four-season run. His motivation is fun.

“It’s a good time,” Chase said. “It’s all about fun and friendship.”

The pitchers, catchers, linemen and outfielders come from varied backgrounds. Some say they enjoy the physicality and mental acuity fostered by competition. Running, jumping and pedaling backwards to catch a fly, along with batting the ball into tomorrow, tends to keep the adrenaline gushing.

Experienced umpires officiate under rules set by a board of directors. Sue Birck, of Milford, is cherished as the league’s scorekeeper. Her husband, Dan, 71, plays for Dr. Dionne’s Seniors.

Larry “Lorenzo” Milana, 64, a Manchester resident, often shows up on his Harley-Davidson. The Army veteran, a member of the Nam Knights motorcycle club, volunteers at the VA in Manchester on Thursdays – no games that day.

Meanwhile, Bedford’s Mike Ford, 66, plays all infield positions for Dr. Dionne’s Seniors. The team is sponsored by Dr. Pierre Dionne, a family physician in Hudson who includes house calls among his services. The softball action keeps Ford hustling. And healthy.

Why not come and pick a team to cheer for during the NSS playoffs? Spectators and welcome and so are new members, guys age 60 or more. Now, play ball!