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Newtowners Help Connecticut Softball Team Take Silver At National Senior Games



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Newtowners Help Connecticut Softball Team Take Silver At National Senior Games

By Nancy K. Crevier

Fourteen members of O’Neil’s Senior Moments women’s softball team, including team leaders Jan Brown, Trish McCusker and Kathy Blewett of Newtown, and Barbara Fischetti of Westport, traveled to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California last month for the National Senior Games, the Olympics for athletes ages 50 and up. It was the first time a Connecticut women’s softball team had been represented at the games, which are held every other odd numbered year.

“We went believing we would come away with some medal. We e-mailed each other ‘Thinking Gold’ in the weeks before the game,” said Brown said.

The Senior Moments did not come home with a gold medal, but after playing out the double elimination games, they found themselves on the podium receiving the silver medal.

“It was so exciting for us,” said Brown, “because we did so well the first time out.”

The path to the National Senior Games began in the spring of 2008 when, after playing multiple games, the team qualified in the Connecticut State Games at Trinity College in Hartford. The qualification was followed by a load of paperwork to enter the team for the games, more than a year away at that time.

Even though there are approximately 60 women on the Senior Moments’ roster, Fischetti said, it was difficult to get 15 people on the team to commit to being available from August 1 to 15, when the games were scheduled in California for 2009. “That was probably the hardest part,” Fischetti said. Each team member was responsible for airfare, hotels, and all other expenses, outside of the team shirts, which were supplied by O’Neil’s Coffee and Sandwich Bar in Bethel. With the National Senior Games in California this year, it was a bit of a financial strain for some.

That and staying injury free for the year, added Brown, “which happens at this age.” By the time they left on August 1 for the Nationals, they were already down one player with a broken hand, and one out with a family emergency.

Members of the Senior Moments range in age from 50 to 60 years old and played in the 50 to 54 age division in Palo Alto, as each team played down to the age of its youngest member. But many of the more than 10,000 senior athletes participating in the 18 sports and seven demonstration sports were well past age 60, Brown said.

“I watched the women’s 80- to 84-year-old basketball game. It was amazing,” she said. “At this age, it is wonderful to be there and be inspired by people older than us.”

The Senior Moments team members had more than just their own silver medal success to celebrate, though, before the event was through. Teammates Barbara Fischetti and Pam Evans took the gold in racquetball doubles, and Fischetti earned a gold medal in singles racquetball as well.

Always a sports fan, like many of her teammates, Brown said that she took up softball at a later age. “I started in my late 30s, playing in Bethel with my stepdaughter. I tried it and thought it was something I could do with a lot of practice,” she said. She now plays the positions of catcher, second or third base, or plays the outfield.

Fischetti is a little more experienced, having played slow pitch softball since she was 18 years old. “I played in Brooklyn, on the concrete.” Her teammates call her “Doc,” for the doctorate she holds in school psychology. “I didn’t take up racquetball until I was 27, though,” said Fischetti, who tries to play at least twice a week with her doubles partner.

Along with working out at the gym regularly and eating right, Brown and Fischetti said that they and many other team members also play for other softball teams. “It helps everybody to stay sharp so that we can play at the level we need to,” Brown said. Nonetheless, the women all try to play smart to avoid injuries. “We play sports, but you can’t be crazy,” declared Brown.

The women are proud to have earned one of the highest honors at the National Senior Games, and proud of the medals, but it is the experience that was most exciting, they said.

It is very much a true Olympic experience, they said, with opening and closing ceremonies, events every night, and an athlete’s village. There were also past Olympic stars on hand, including women’s softball champ Dot Richardson, track and field star and former Newtown High School star Bruce Jenner, and Steve Young, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.

“This give you a chance to do the competitive thing,” said Fischetti, “and you meet incredible people. We’ve made connections now all over the world. Individually, it was fulfilling for each of us. If you haven’t competed at the national level, this is a dream come true,” Fischetti said. “It was our miracle.”

The team is already making plans to qualify in the 2010 Connecticut games and make a reappearance at the National Senior Games in 2011, in Houston, Texas, Brown said.

“It was fun, and it was amazing,” said Brown. “We thought, ‘Why not?’ and we intend to do it ‘til we can’t walk.”

Members of the O’Neil’s Senior Moments women’s softball team will march in the Annual Newtown Labor Day Parade, Monday, September 7. Women ages 50 and up interested in joining the Senior Moments, or for information about other senior sports team, may contact Brown at 426-8693, or at jannie1225@msn.com.

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