The baseball cliche. It's as much as part of the game as a hotdog and a brew. Build it and they will come. Tip our caps to that team. Swinging for the fences. ¶ And of course, for the love of the game. ¶ That's where these guys come in. Some are former ballplayers, some aren't. Some just want exercise, others want some competition.
They're players in the Nature Coast Adult Baseball League. They play Sundays all over Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties. There's little fanfare and some players don't even have complete uniforms. These guys weren't top recruits or former major leaguers.
They're all there because of a cliche.
"Once a baseball player, always a baseball player," city of Brooksville recreation leader and first baseman for the Brooksville Scorpions Tina Nichols said. "What's their alternative? A men's softball league? This gives them a chance to play baseball. They love baseball like I love baseball and this is the only place they have to play baseball instead of softball. They don't want to play softball, I don't want to play softball, so we come here."
There's also a mix of ages. From 16 and older, teams seem to average in the early- to mid-20s, but others have a few players in their 50s and another has a 60-year-old.
"Each team builds on a team from when they start and get new players to get more competitive as they go," league organizer Steve Arcadipane said. "We're in a small market area, that's why its a good mix in age. If it were a bigger area, we'd have age divisions."
The summer season is wrapping up for the league, but there will be playoffs in October, and Arcadipane says the winter season starts in November. There are seven teams playing, and to be honest, some are better than others, like any other sports league, but the players still feel the games are competitive.
"Overall the competition is pretty level," said Michael Benitez, a member of the Dade City Mets. "There may be some times we get out to a lead and dominate, but that's kind of rare. A lot of these guys have played in high school and stuff, so they can be pretty good and games can be tough."
Arcadipane says that the games are for fun, mostly laid back, but he knows just when players pick up their game. Crunch time.
"Like any sport, its a rec league that gets competitive towards the playoffs," Arcadipane said. "People want to win the championship. That's always a given."
Championships aside, players just want the game. They want to feel part of a team, make the plays, feel like they're skilled at something.
"It's a good thing to do on Sundays," Scorpions player Bobby Russell said. "It's a good league for people who just want to play the game. They love the game to the aspect of where it's not going to become a life-and-death situation."
So these players leave it all on the field. They give it 110 percent. They feel the momentum swing, play with a sense of urgency, even get their competitive juices flowing.
They pick a cliche and just go play.
"Everyone out here is here for the love of the game," Nichols said. "They have passion to keep playing and the games are competitive. They're have been some really good games out here.
"When it comes to baseball, you really don't need much else than this."
Community Sports Editor Mike Camunas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 544-1771.