Ron Mastrolia, president of the Gulfport Boomerangs, a 55-and-older men’s softball organization.
REDINGTON SHORES – For more than 60 years, Ron Mastrolia made a name for himself as a competitive athlete and by keeping a close eye on others as a game official.
These days the 81-year-old Redington Shores resident spends a good portion of his time running a 55-and-older men’s softball organization called the Gulfport Boomerangs. They play three mornings a week at Hoyt Field in Gulfport where a group of anywhere between 35 and 100 guys congregate to play softball – just for fun.
Mastrolia has been associated with the league for eight years and has served as the president for the past six years.
“I settle disputes,” said Mastrolia. “I set the field up three times a week and I do the lineups with two other guys. It’s very unstructured. There are no statistics kept. Each time you play, you may be playing with a different person.”
Teams consist of 12 to 13 players. Like Little League, everybody plays.
Unlike most softball leagues, the rules are bent to make it fun for all participants.
“We try to match up guys to make an even team,” said Mastrolia, a New Jersey native who has made Florida home since 2005. “For example, if we know you’re a good third baseman, we’ll match you up with another guy who can’t play third. Plus, we don’t try to get a bunch of hitters in a row. We try to spread it out so that the games are competitive.”
The slightly adjusted rules make it fun and keep the games moving. For example, a team is allowed to score only five runs per inning except the last inning when a team is given the chance to catch up.
“Otherwise, we’d be there all day,” said Mastrolia.
Another interesting aspect is the adjustments made for players with physical handicaps.
“We have one group we call the Magnificent Seven,” said Mastrolia. “They can hit but they can’t run. So we made a rule if they hit the ball into the outfield, you can’t throw them out. We pinch run for them once they get to first base.”
The rule, he says, has kept those players as regular participants, which is part of the fun and the overall goal of the league.
The players come from all walks of life, ranging in age to 90. They include former American League umpire Jim McKean of St. Petersburg and Dennis Hunt of South Pasadena, a former member of the New York Police Department bomb squad. It also includes Gary Muenke of Treasure Island, a former Boeing Aircraft engineer; and Bobby Kay of St. Petersburg, a former helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War.
“They come from all walks,” said Mastrolia. “Most of the guys participated in high school sports, some in college sports and some none whatsoever. A lot of them come in here and say they haven’t played in 40 years and I just tell them to take it easy.”
After all, he said, the goal is fun – and to not get injured.
“We’re very loosey-goosey with the guys,” Mastrolia said. “We don’t expect too much from them and we’re not hard-nosed. If they make outs or strike out, we don’t care. It’s just fun in the sun.”
The best part, he said, is when a player makes an errant throw or somebody tries to throw it 50 feet and it only goes 20 feet.
Following the games, players convene at a local Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant where the day’s play and any number of other topics may be discussed.
“We carry it over to Dunkin’ Donuts and kid them about it,” said Mastrolia. “We just have a good time.”
For Mastrolia, the Boomerangs are just an extension of his previous athletic life.
He was a member of his Hackensack, N.J., high school’s first undefeated football team and played shortstop on the baseball team. After that, he was off to Rutgers University where he quarterbacked the football team and was captain of the basketball team.
He later coached football at Syracuse University and Newark Eastside High School before being named the first varsity football coach at Paramus High in 1956.
He later joined the Paramus Board of Education, became a baseball umpire with the Bergen County Umpires Association, and officiated high school basketball and football. He also officiated softball, volleyball and lacrosse.
Altogether, Mastrolia stayed active as a game official for six decades.
Now he’s approaching his first decade with the Boomerangs, which is all part of his longtime plan to stay active.
So his advice to other seniors comes as no surprise.
“Get involved in some type of sporting activity,” Mastrolia said. “Go to a spa, do something. They say the legs are the first things to go. So just stay active in something.”
For those interested in joining the Boomerangs, the league plays games Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings (8 a.m.) at Hoyt Field, 2306 23rd Ave. S., Gulfport.