The Sandlot Softball Game: Still Going Strong in Naperville
Monday, August 29, 2022
Naperville has its own sandlot softball game--it just happens to be in a park rather than in a sandlot.
Nearly every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning from May through October a group of men and a few women get together to play a casual game of softball at Gartner Park. Many of the participants have been playing softball together since 1997. In 2022, they have had more than 80 players sign up to play, which is the largest group in their history. They play either on one or two fields, depending on the number of participants on a given day, which typically varies between 33 and 45 players.
When I visited on a Monday in August, the players were happy to share details about the league and their own experiences. They were proud to point out that their group includes two 88-year-olds: Chris Argianas and Toru Fujii. Toru is one of the pitchers. Chris recently played with the Chicago Strikers, a travel team that won the national tournament in Albuquerque, where he hit a home run.
Chris Argianas at bat
Toru Fujii pitching
The players love playing softball and enjoy participating in athletics whenever and wherever they can, including playing travel ball with the Strikers. Over the years, the Strikers have competed in different age groups and have won the nationals each of the four times they have played: in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2022. They currently play in the 75-and-over league. Their latest win was in Sylvania, Ohio in the Great Lakes tournament organized by the Softball Players Association of America.
One of the two women in the Gartner Park Coed 50+ Senior League, Kandi Vancura, is on a travel team, Jolico 65, which won a tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee on June 30, 2022.
Another participant, Don Bartell, has completed 5 ironman competitions, which consist of swimming 2 miles, biking 112 miles, and then running a marathon. In his third Ironman he placed in the top 10% of participants in his age group.
Don Bartell, Ironman
Paul Vorwick, a longtime player with the Coed 50+ League, also plays softball in Florida in the winter. In spite of suffering a head injury and on another occasion, a heart attack on the field in Florida, he still is able to play softball--albeit with a helmet to protect his head. He enjoys the casual atmosphere, being with friends and being outdoors. In his view, "Every day out here is a good day."
Although there is plenty of talent and competitive skill among the players, the Coed 50+ League at Gartner Park remains casual. As one of the players said, "no one complains about errors." Friendship and the opportunity to get outside and play--even into their eighties--motivate the players to meet up on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday morning for a lively game of softball. They even plan a Christmas party to stay in touch over the winter.
Our ParkTalk podcast recently published episodes about transitioning to retirement and what the Park District has to offer, including volunteer projects and part-time work opportunities. For those who have recently retired, have free time and are looking for a fun way to stay active, consider joining the softball league at Gartner Park. Registration takes place in the spring. In the Spring Program Guide look for the Coed 50+ Senior League. In addition, there are competitive adult softball leagues for ages 18 and up and for ages 40 and up. Fall leagues include Co-Rec 14-inch and Men's 12-inch and begin in early September. To learn more and register, click here and search for softball.
For more information about adult softball at the Naperville Park District, email the softball coordinator, Gerry Healey, at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about all of the Park District's adult athletic leagues and programs, check out the Athletics section of the Program Guide.
Men's softball at Frontier Sports Complex, August 2022