Passion of game still alive, well

By Ivan Sanders
STAR CORRESPONDENT
isanders@starhq.com

   This past weekend was a real eye-opening experience for me as I had the opportunity to take in the softball portion of the Tennessee Senior Games in Clarksville.
   I have always been a big Atlanta Braves fan, and seeing the likes of Chipper Jones, John Smoltz and the rest of the team thrills me.
   Yet I, like many other professional baseball fans, have come to realize that even though the hype of being in the same arena as these athletes is exciting, there is still somewhat of a loss of passion for the sport they have the opportunity to play in day in and day out.
   This was not the case in the Senior Games softball competition as the 65-over Tri-Cities Seniors displayed what having passion for your sport is all about as these men came out in blistering heat to capture yet another state title and the fourth first-place finish in seven tournaments this season.
   I have seen young players wilt from a lot less heat than these gentlemen participated in. From the first pitch to the final out, there was no whining about the heat, excuses about why the air conditioning at the hotel was more desired, or where they were going after the game.
   No sir, these guys played with a vigor that I only pray that, if God allows me to live to see this same age, I can display with the same hustle and determination they exhibited.
   Elizabethton was well represented on this team by three guys who played solid, contributing rolls to the success of the team at this tournament as well as the other tournaments they have played in this season.
   Bob Carlton may be a name recognized by viewers of WJHL television in the late '60s to mid '70s as the news anchorman. He went on to become news director until his retirement in the early 1990s.
   Bob resides in Elizabethton and plays a mean shortstop for the squad. He also has a lot of pop still left in his bat as well.
   "We still have the same competitive zeal as we did when we were younger and winning is a motivation," said Carlton. "We are on a level playing field with the other teams and it makes for a competitive spirit."
   Added Carlton: "We are all friends and the fellowship means a lot more than anything. I believe playing helps to actually lengthen our days by staying in shape and having fun."
   Another name that will ring a bell is that of Bill Carter, who served as fire chief of Elizabethton from 1982 until his retirement in November of 1997.
   Once known for providing meticulous methods of containing fires, Carter now uses his bat to light fires under his team and smoke the opposition.
   "I have enjoyed the fellowship and travel associated with playing with these guys," said Carter. 'My wife Roberta tags along and we just enjoy all the softball."
   Quipped Carter: "They always say 'don't hurt yourself,' but when it comes time to get that extra base it's always 'go, go, go!' I have loved sports since I was a kid and I have loved softball more than any other sport."
   For Bill Weddle, the game of baseball and softball have been a way of life other than the profession of Electrical Engineering for Weddle.
   Playing high school baseball, as well as one year of junior college ball at Wingate, only proved to whet Weddle's appetite for being on a diamond.
   Even in the military, Weddle found softball to be a huge way to relief stress associated with military life.
   "I have always loved playing ball, especially with this bunch of guys I play with now," stated Weddle. "They are just a great bunch of guys."
   Weddle went on to add that the sport enables him to prove something to himself.
   "Just the feeling of being able to do it is what motivates me," said Weddle. "It seems like when you get to be this age people lose confidence in you being able to do anything and this just proves I can still do what I love to do."
   These guys are all a special bunch of guys just to be around. It proved to this writer that passion may not be evident in today's generation, but these guys still have a burning desire to succeed and prove they still have the right stuff.
   There is not a better supporting cast than these guys wives either as there is plenty of vocal support during the game and gentle massages afterwards.
   Another aspect that is appreciated by this writer is the time these guys spend together after the contest.
   Sitting around the pool, anything goes as Dewayne Thornburg strums out anything from Johnny Cash to favorite hymns from the Red Back Hymnal as one and all chime in on key or off. It really doesn't matter because it is all about fellowship anyway.
   Maybe we all should take some time to attend some of the local league games these guys and the 70-over league participate in. We might just re-discover what having passion and zeal for ones sport is really about.