Bruce Jaslow, 86, the oldest player in the Long Island...

Bruce Jaslow, 86, the oldest player in the Long Island affiliate of the nationwide and Melville-based Men’s Senior Baseball League, takes a swing Sunday at East Meadow High School for Smithtown in an opening day game against the Long Island A's. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Sunday was opening day in East Meadow for the Long Island A's and  a team from Smithtown, and these baseball players paid special attention to their stretching and warmup routines. The average age on the league's teams is well over 65, so they weren't taking any chances.

Smithtown's roster includes players with the most advanced ages in the Melville-based Men’s Senior Baseball League's Long Island affiliate, with only four players under 70 and three past 80, according to team manager Ed Capon, 70.  And the most senior senior in the league, Capon said, is outfielder Bruce Jaslow, 86, a retired dentist from Old Brookville.

Jaslow says he was invited to try out for the Brooklyn Dodgers back in the day, but he had to weigh his chances against a job that would help pay for college. He chose the job. He did play college ball and picked up the game again at age 30. Playing at 86, Jaslow said, is “not a heck of a lot different. It’s you and the ball. You’ve got to hit it and you’ve got to catch it.”

The league's motto is “Don’t Go Soft — Play Hardball!” Long Island teams play at East Meadow High School, the site of Sunday's game, and other area ballfields, and travel for tournaments in Cooperstown as well as Florida and Arizona.

Many players have stayed with their teams and the league for decades. Nelson Cubano, 63, of Selden, who plays for the A's, has been at it for more than 20 years. Fred Schwartz, 76, who lives in Nesconset, has played with Smithtown for 30 years. 

“There’s no scouts or college coaches to offer you money,” Schwartz said, “So we play for the fun of it.”

Schwartz, who switched to second base when the throw from short became too much, was hit by a pitch in the early innings Sunday, and trotted briskly to first, smiling broadly.

Some things, several of the players acknowledged, have changed as they've aged. The pace of their play for one, said Tom Kerrigan, 63, a member of the A's. He played Little League as a child in Queens, and has competed in the adult league since 1996, when he was in the 30 and up division.

Now, he said, “the game is a little slower. But it keeps us young, I think.”

Bob Schneider, 72, Smithtown third baseman, said his aspirations have changed as a senior player. “I used to work out to try to get better,” he said. But at his age, he said, “I’m not going to get any better.”

His goal for the season on opening day: “to decline slower than everybody else.”

Some things haven't changed, umpire Kevin Daly, said — including the trick to getting on base.

“It’s baseball. You have to hit it where they ain’t.”

Another constant of the game: Age and wisdom apparently don’t make hitters any more complacent about a call that doesn’t go their way.

“That was low and outside,” a Smithtown batter grumbled after he struck out looking. “Terrible call.”

Still, the players seemed chuffed that they were still out there playing the game they have loved since childhood. Cubano, 63, was born and raised in the South Bronx, close to Yankee Stadium. He loved playing as a youngster “and I never stopped playing,” he said. After the spring season is over, he'll again travel to an MSBL father-son tournament in Arizona. Last year he attended with his son, 42, and grandson, 18.

Smithtown trailed Sunday 10-1 in the top of the 5th Sunday but the mood in the dugout was no less buoyant.

“We don’t win a lot, but we have a great time,” Capon said. 

Gary Catalanotto, 67, Smithtown first baseman, said, “It’s a dream come true that at our age we can still play a little boys’ game.”

Fisherman facing prison … Nassau extends red light cameras … Summer attractions Credit: Newsday

Heuermann house searched ... Palm Tree Music Festival bid denied ... Nassau 911 call system back up ... School budget preview

Fisherman facing prison … Nassau extends red light cameras … Summer attractions Credit: Newsday

Heuermann house searched ... Palm Tree Music Festival bid denied ... Nassau 911 call system back up ... School budget preview

Latest videos

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME