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Florida Sun Coast Silver Belles, the Senior Softball USA Spring Nationals champions

Softball begins at 65

When Jan Troke's co-workers encouraged her to join the employee softball team, she was interested but wary.

After all, it had been more than 30 years since the Largo resident played on a team.

That was six years ago. Today, Troke, 66, has reached new heights as a softball player.

"Once I got back in shape I joined a traveling team and started playing a little more seriously," said Troke, who is a catcher.

The traveling team is the Florida Sun Coast Silver Belles, whose members usually practice at Largo's Southwest Recreation Center.

The team of 20 enters slow-pitch softball tournaments in the 65-and-over division and has had a string of successes.

Last month, the Silver Belles won first place in the Senior Softball USA Spring Nationals in Winter Haven.

"In the last game, we were down five runs and we came back to win," said Olga Penkacik, 85, of St. Petersburg. "We really fought for that win."

Penkacik is the team's bat girl, collecting foul balls and cleaning the sand off the bats for the team.

"I played softball with a church league for more than 20 years," she said. "Now I can't play, but I love being part of the team."

That feeling of camaraderie is expressed by all the players.

Millie Goss, 67, has always loved playing ball but arthritis keeps her off the field. She travels with the team as co-manager and scorekeeper.

"I enjoy being involved," she said. "The crack of the bat, the open air. It's in my blood."

Marge Asselin, 65 of St. Petersburg is an outfielder. She said she was 27 the last time she played in a softball league.

"I've met some wonderful ladies," she said. "They help you and want you to get better. When one player gets better, the team gets better."

Ellen Freund of Clearwater, who turns 65 this summer, is the team's shortstop. She said people are intrigued that the team members are active in a sport at their age.

Asselin and Troke agreed.

"My grandchildren thought it was funny that their grampy bought their granny a baseball bat for Christmas," Asselin said.

"I have nothing against needlepoint," Troke added. "But I have much more fun with this."

Softball begins at 65 05/24/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 27, 2008 2:29pm]

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