Decades in the dugout: Why some El Paso players can’t walk away from baseball
There was a time when most of the guys in the El Paso 50 and over Baseball Association were really good players. Now, they're a little older, a little slower, and a little heavier. In this league, if you are 50 years old, you're just a rookie.
"It's in my blood and I just can't give it up," 68-year-old Don Wilson said. In his younger days, Wilson threw the first no-hitter for UTEP when the Miners had a baseball team. Wilson is now a player and a manager in the 50-and-over league.
"I feel born again when I'm pitching," 60-year-old Tom Rosati said. "This is my field of dreams."
The league was founded by Max Weber, who was playing in a league for 35- to 45-year-old players. There was no league for players older than 50.
"At first, the 45-year-old players didn't want to play in this league because they felt they could still hold their own with the younger players," Weber said. "Pretty soon, those players realized I had a pretty good idea for the 50-year-old league," Weber said with a smile.
From a distance, Antonio Briones looks like any other lanky second baseman. But as he jogs into the dugout, he proudly proclaims he is 65. When asked if he feels like he's 65, Briones laughs and simply answers "no."
A lot of the players in the league were not average ballplayers when they were younger. In fact, some had nice careers right here in El Paso. Outfielder Mark Miller, 64, played high school ball at Eastwood and was then a star player for UTEP's baseball team. He signed with the Texas Rangers and spent some time in the minor leagues.
"I've had shoulder replacement surgery and a few other injuries," Miller says. "But all of the other guys out here will tell you they've had injuries, too. I'm going to play until I can't play anymore because it's so much fun."
"If I quit, I'm over," Wilson said. "I'm going to play until I die."