Who are you calling ‘Geezer’?

Friday, December 6, 2019 0 Comments

Who are you calling ‘Geezer’?

When Juan Campiz steps up to home plate at Miami Lakes Optimist Park, opponents have to be ready.

The nimble athlete swings the bat as if he had played pro ball. And he can field and catch, too.

No one would guess that Campiz is 93-years-old.

Campiz is one of the Geezers, a group of 30 men, mostly retirees, who gather two mornings each week to play softball in the park. They follow Geezer Ball rules, which means they don’t run around the bases.

That hasn’t spoiled the players’ fun, Geezers founder Dave Oliver said.

“We have a really good time,” said Oliver, 79. “We don’t run the bases because some of us can’t run or throw. But we can bat.”

Some balls are painted Day-Glo orange or yellow to track outs, or how many runs have been scored.

Those balls are visible not only to the players but even to the parishioners at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church that is next door, Oliver joked.

The group began playing a decade ago, and are supported by the town, its Elderly Affairs Committee and The Graham Companies.

For sustenance on game days, players may bring pastelitos (Cuban pastries) and “codger cookies” to celebrate birthdays.

They let a few youngsters – four guys in their 50s – play, and there is a sprinkling of adult nephews and grandsons on the field too, who’ve been taught the game by their elders.

The Geezers celebrated Veterans Day in November with a game played while wearing their new blue and red reversible jerseys.

Many of the players were in the military, and teammates thanked them for their service before play began.

“It’s an honor to serve our country,” said Freddie Rodriguez, 66, a town resident and Vietnam veteran. “And it’s an honor to be a Geezer. I love these guys.”

Oliver said the group adopted the Geezers as their team name because that’s what younger people may call men their age. They also enjoy the sport at the town’s oldest park, which was built 50 years ago.

Most of the Geezers played ball in their native countries of Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and the Dominican Republic before they immigrated to the U.S.

Some of the men played college baseball in the states and as adults, belonged to baseball and softball leagues.

Rodriguez said he’s enjoyed belonging to the Geezers for several years.

“Playing softball here brings back a lot of memories,” said Rodriguez, who played baseball in high school. “This group is special.”

Oliver said the Geezers remind him of a similar group in Coral Gables, but those players run the bases.

“They argue a lot and it holds up the game,” Oliver said. “They are arguing, ‘He’s out!’ or ‘No, he’s safe!’ Can you imagine old people arguing all day?”

Oliver said the younger players have to be cautious when opposing their mentors who may be fragile.

“They can break us in half,” Jesus Aviles, 55, said. “I love playing with my grandkids, but they beat me up all the time.”

Oliver said compared to the other players, Campiz hasn’t lost a step, even though he’s lived for nearly a century.

“He can still run and hit,” Oliver said. “He can probably run faster than 40 percent of the guys who can play. And nobody enjoys it more than Juan.”

Aviles summed up Campiz’s performance.

“He’s our All-Star,” he said.

Campiz plays the outfield like a man 70 years younger.

“I’ve been playing softball since I was a kid,” said Campiz, who lives in Miami Gardens. “That’s how I keep in shape. I also eat right and don’t smoke or drink.”

A Korean War veteran, Campiz said he’s been a part of the Geezers for three years.

While playing softball at different parks in Miami-Dade County, Campiz came across the Geezers at Optimist Park.

“I was looking for a field to play softball and saw these guys and decided to join them,” said Campiz. “I love playing with these beautiful people. We get together, play softball and have fun.”

If You Go
Geezer Softball is played Monday and Wednesday mornings; batting practice is at 9 a.m. at Miami Lakes Optimist Park, 6411 NW 162nd St. For info: Email Dave Oliver at oliver40@bellsouth.net.

Geezer Softball Rules
--There is no baserunning.

--Nine innings are played.

--A ball that rolls into the outfield counts as a single; if a ball lands in the outfield it’s a double.

--A ball that rolls past an outfielder counts as a triple, and the next batter can score for their team with a base hit.

--If the ball sails over an outfielder’s head or over the short fence, it’s a home run.

--Hit balls that are caught cleanly count as an out. Strike outs count as they normally would.

--Batters are allowed five pitches and two swings; if you hit two foul balls you’re out.

--On special occasions players wear jerseys that all have the number 10 on the back, signifying the Geezer’s 10th anniversary.

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