COLORADO SPRINGS — When the coronavirus pandemic began to impact people here in Colorado, one of the biggest concerns for doctors was finding a way to keep our seniors safe, engaged, and healthy. News5 learned a group of seniors found the softball diamond was a place they could rebound from the impacts of the pandemic.
Back in the spring, they weren't even sure they could safely have a season, but ballplayers in their 70s who are a part of the Pikes Peak Region Senior Softball Association have been playing softball in Colorado Springs since July. They say it's been a major boost to their physical and mental health during the pandemic.
"I just think it's important to for people who drive by to see a bunch of old guys out here still playing ball," said 75-year-old softball player Greg Broeckelman. "We think it's healthy for seniors to stay active and right now we have four teams. There are 13 people on each team. So the math says we have 52 players playing right now."
These senior softball players who play at Cottonwood Creek Park in Colorado Springs once a week are all more than 70 years old.
"We can't run as fast as we used to. We can't throw as far as we used to," said softball player and 70-year-old division player representative Tim Ryan. "Just to be able to get out here instead of sitting on your couch and getting fresh air, getting some exercise, that means a lot."
The oldest player on the field in this senior softball league is 84-year-old Frederick Mattos.
"I've been doing it for 34 years. I started when I was 50," said Mattos. "Keep going and the whole idea is don't stop. Don't sit on that couch. Just keep your body moving and you’re here."
But being able to play this year wasn't always a sure thing. The league was supposed to start in April but was postponed because of the coronavirus.
"That is not good," said Mattos. "We had to go to a psychiatrist because we were going through a complete withdrawal of softball."
Following the safety guidelines from health officials, the 70-year-olds division was able to start playing games again in early July, but the biggest question was if there would be enough seniors who felt comfortable playing during a pandemic.
"It was a big unknown," said Ryan. "There were some that said we’re going to wait until next year. We understand that. So, when we turned on the switch and got 55 (players) who said we’re going. We’re going to play this year.”
Since then, the league has managed to keep everyone healthy despite COVID-19 concerns.
"It is very serious. We all know that and it's going to be around for quite a while," said Ryan. "So we are taking it very seriously. We're doing everything we can. We have sanitizer on the bench. We wear masks. If somebody is not feeling well they call their manager and the manager says yes please stay home."
"Most of these guys that are out here, almost all of them are in good physical condition and I think that's an asset," said Mattos. "If you're in good physical condition and you do some mental things like a mask and being away from people who are probably vulnerable to a virus, you know it's no big deal."
But it takes everyone in El Paso County doing their part to slow the spread of the virus in order for these seniors to get approval from health officials to play. These ballplayers say they are grateful their community is taking the virus seriously.
"To me, it means Colorado Springs is a good place to live," said Broeckelman. "In a nutshell that's what it means to me."
The Pikes Peak Region Senior Softball Association would love to see more seniors come out to play and get involved.
If you would like to find out more about the Pikes Peak Region Senior Softball Association visit: https://www.pikespeakregionseniorsoftball.org/