Shortstop is arguably (mostly argued by catchers and their mothers) the hardest position to play in baseball. • They have a lot of field to cover; they are the boss of the infield; they need sure hands and rocket arms; and they have to think and move at lightning speed. • The perfect assignment for an 83-year-old grandmother from Largo.
Not any 83-year-old grandmother, mind you: Ethel Lehmann, a woman who proves there is no such thing as too old.
Along with her Freedom Spirit of Florida 70-and-over softball team, based in Clearwater, she won a silver medal at this year's National Senior Games, which were held in July in Cleveland.
In addition to the team honor, she was recognized as a Humana (sponsor of the games) Game Changer, an award given to those who serve as a role model for seniors who want to live healthy lives.
A mother of five and grandmother of nine who was inducted into the National Senior Softball Hall of Fame in 2008, she said she has loved playing softball since she was in high school. She took time out of her active schedule to answer some questions for us.
1 You were the shortstop on the Freedom Spirit of Florida softball team that won a silver medal last month in the National Senior Games. What was the most memorable thing that happened to you while competing in Cleveland?
Many memorable things happened to me. Being honored with a medal as a Humana Game Changer and being mentioned before thousands of participants at the Celebration of Athletes were memories I will never forget. Another great memory was beating our rival Canada twice. Finally, my team and I were very excited about our come-from-behind win against the Golden Gals from the Villages, giving them their first loss and forcing another championship game with the Freedom Spirit.
2 Have you always been an athlete? What sports have you played?
I was born athletic. After high school, in which I lettered in four sports, I played organized softball and basketball. I played softball, basketball, volleyball and track/field events in different National Senior Games but due to scheduling conflicts, I chose to focus more on softball as it's the sport I love the most.
3 How do you keep yourself in shape to play softball?
I jog approximately 3 miles two or three times a week; bowl once a week; play softball three times a week with the Kids & Kubs softball club in St. Petersburg; practice once a week with the Freedom Spirit of Florida softball team; and on rainy days, I exercise on gym machines.
And, since I have a hearty appetite, I need to watch what I eat.
4 If you could give us all just one piece of advice on how to stay healthy and active as we get older, what would it be?
After a checkup from your doctor, get off the couch and "just do it" — even if it is just walking at first. It's so important to make physical activity a part of your everyday life.
5 If one of your grandchildren was asked to tell us about Grandma Ethel, what would he or she say?
My granddaughter, Lindsey, who is going to college on a soccer scholarship, said my accomplishments are an inspiration to the whole family. She said I'm a great example for living an active, healthy lifestyle and when she gets older, she wants to be like Grandma.
Have an interesting or noteworthy candidate for this monthly feature? If so, please send nominations and contact information to [email protected]