From a distance the scene at 950 International Drive was a familiar one Friday: a couple of ball fields with one game in progress and another ending as players get in line to shake hands and high five.
A closer look revealed a different scenario, a camaraderie found among people who have been playing the game of softball for a very long time, and a sibling rivalry among four brothers – all part of the International Senior Softball Association (ISSA) competing on four different teams for the 2014 US Open National Championship.
North Carolina friends Jerry Barrett and Bob DiFelice have been playing ball together now for “about four years,” said Barrett. This year he played with DiFelice’s brothers who all came to Myrtle Beach from various parts of the country to play in the same tournament. The four brothers are Bob, who lives nearby in North Carolina; Frank, of Conway; Joe of Massachusetts; and Mike – all play for the same association and have been competing this week in the tournament which wraps up Sunday.
According to its website at http://www.seniorsoftball.org, the International Senior Softball Association (ISSA) is a not-for-profit corporation organized in 1994 by experienced softball administrators to provide the senior players a voice in the sport and the opportunity to participate in and experience the highest quality world-class tournaments.
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Greg Thomas, deputy executive director for ISSA described the tournaments as 100% competitive but an environment where, “After the games everbody goes out for a beer.”
Thomas, who is from Virginia, organizes the tournaments that are held all over the country throughout the year.
Surrounded Friday by his older siblings, Frank, 70, Bob, 68, and Joe,73, the youngest, Mike DeFelice, 67, said his favorite place to play softball is Vegas and he plays up to 150 games a year at various locations. The brothers said it’s rare that they get to play in the same tournament at the same time.
As they talked about touring all over the US, playing golf and [ball] games all year long, the brothers said the last time they all played on a team together – which, they all agreed – was in 2012 for a tournament in Cape Cod – while they gladly disagreed on almost everything else.
The brothers grew up in Canton, Massachusetts and all began playing baseball at a young age.
“I was eight,” Joe quipped in a heavy Massachusetts accent. “Now I play 200 games a year,”
“He plays way too many games in a year,” Bob added.
A columnist at The Canton Citizen, brother Joe recalled the time he hit a home run as the heckling began with “oh geez, here we go ...”
Not long into the story – which took place in 2012 – brother Mike jumped up from his seat on a bleacher to demonstrate the time [Joe] picked up a score book, spit in it, then hurled it to the ground. “Everyone was in tears laughing,” Mike DeFelice said.
Graduates of North Eastern, Texas A & M, Wentworth and the University of Tampa, the brothers all served their country and now play ball – and golf – all over the country.
Though brothers, the men spell their last name differently with an “i” or an “e” after the “D” — depending on which brother you ask: “I spell it with an ‘i” and that’s the correct way,” said Bob as Frank dug for his social security card to prove his way is with an “e.”
“If I would have remembered to bring my grandfather’s birth certificate, I could show you that it’s spelled with an ‘I’,” said Bob DiFelice.