By Curtis pulliam
These guys have been playing baseball for more than 60 years.
Youngstown Classics Baseball
Senior baseball players Ron DiVincenzo, 74, of Boardman, and Charlie Harris, 74 or Youngstown play for the Youngstown Classics in a 58-and-over baseball league at Field of Dreams in Boardman.
Ron DiVincenzo’s age never tempered his inspiration to play baseball. From grade school to 60-and-over leagues, he has rarely allowed age to guide his decisions.
At a young age he remembers being placed in right field for a high school baseball team. The thing was, he had yet to start middle school.
“One thing about being at a country school in a small town where I was, in Holloway, Ohio (which had a population of 338 according to the 2010 U.S. Census), they had a high school team but not enough ball players,” said DiVincenzo, who was the fourth-oldest of six kids. “It was great. Mostly, I just stood there with a bat on my shoulder and they would throw balls cause I was short.”
At age 11, DiVincenzo’s family moved to Boardman. He recalls there was “really no Little League activity” in town at the time, so he got creative in finding ways to stay close to the game.
“I would read the Vindicator and follow the Indians,” said DiVincenzo, who is a life-long Cleveland fan and got to meet Indians great Bob Lemon among others. “There were ads in the paper for forming Little League baseball teams and I had to get on my bicycle [and find the field].”
That’s when he met a Youngstown-area staple on the baseball diamond, Art Mirto.
“Art was a really nice guy,” DiVincenzo said. “He did a lot of Little League and Pony League managing.”
Mirto managed one of DiVincenzo’s Pony League teams and taught the young player the love of the game.
Sixty-three years later, DiVincenzo is still playing in an up-and-coming senior league. He’s been a busy participant for the past 22 years.
The Ohio 50-and-over League is comprised of 17 teams in three divisions. Most of the teams in the league are from the Youngstown area and just like Major League Baseball, teams are divided into two divisions — American and National.
DiVincenzo, now 74, plays on the Niles team, which is a member of the National Division.
There’s also the 58-and-over division, which contains six teams and plays a 15-game schedule, including a tournament at the end of the season. DiVincenzo helped form the Youngstown Classics, which play in the 58-and-over league, but that hasn’t stopped him from playing in both.
“I like it so much, playing with guys you know, you can build a long friendship,” DiVincenzo said. “There’s a camaraderie. If someone’s in trouble, you help them out.”
Larry Allen, a teammate of DiVincenzo on the Classics, says many of the guys who play in the 50-and-over league also play softball, which requires a major adjustment.
“The biggest difference is the baseball comes in a whole lot faster,” said Allen, who has been playing baseball since Little League. “You gotta be ready quicker.”
As if that wasn’t enough to keep the 74-year-old busy, DiVincenzo also plays on a Springfield 60-and-over team in the Ohio Men’s Senior Baseball League. This team competes in tournaments across the country.
“I have played many tournaments in Phoenix, Arizona on major league and minor league baseball parks,” he said. “We go for a week and every day we’re usually at somewhere different. After playing 22 years around here, I’ve always made time in the fall to go to Arizona, Florida, or Cooperstown, N.Y., at the Hall of Fame.”
The baseball trips and career he’s had were something that didn’t seem possible earlier in DiVincenzo’s life.
DiVincenzo went into his high school years still undersized for his age. He’s 5-foot-6 now.
“I don’t think I started growing until my senior year of high school,” DiVincenzo said.
Since he couldn’t play high school ball, he resorted to trying to find games in the summer time.
“That’s how much I like baseball,” he said.
After graduating from Ursuline in 1957, DiVincenzo decided to focus on school.
“I figured I better finish college and go to summer school instead of baseball being part of my life,” he said.
DiVincenzo attended Youngstown State University on-and-off for eight years, graduating in 1965.
Again, DiVincenzo could not find time for the sport he loved.
“I didn’t have time to play baseball at Youngstown State,” he said. “No time when you’re working and raising a family all at one time and going to night school.”
DiVincenzo, who was a management accountant until his retirement about 14 years ago, says when he was working for a living, he tried to get back in the game as much as possible.
“I played slow-pitch softball until I was 48,” said DiVincenzo, who has nine grandchildren from ages nine to 24. “A lot of that was as much as I could get in with the family and working overtime and that kind of stuff.”
DiVincenzo first joined the Ohio 50-and-over league in 1992, when there was only a handful of teams.
Charlie Harris, who is a teammate of DiVincenzo on both the Youngstown Classics and the Springfield team, has been playing baseball since 1955 and he has no plans of stopping any time soon.
“I like the exercise,” Harris said. “I like the hit-and-run and, like I said, competing. I like the competition.”
Harris plays third base or shortstop, depending on the lineup. However, according to Allen, Harris does more than that with just being on the diamond.
“It’s amazing to still be playing great baseball at 74,” said Allen, who is 63 and plays third base and pitches. “He plays in three leagues. It’s unbelievable.”
Allen, who has played in the 50-and-over league for 15 years, says that Harris and DiVincenzo bring great leadership to the Classics. DiVincenzo is currently a co-manager and roams the outfield.
“They are both good people,” Allen said. “I’m very happy I can still go out there and be a kid. But it’s amazing the speed at which he (Harris) can turn a double play.”
Harris loves baseball and believes there is more than meets the eye about the game.
“It teaches you how to win, how to lose,” Harris said. “It teaches you a lot about life.”
For DiVincenzo, his years of being involved in baseball have taught him so much more about life than he could’ve imagined.
“It teaches you to work together as a team, even at our age,” said DiVincenzo, who is the uncle of recent Cardinal Mooney graduate and Ashland University commit Gino DiVincenzo. “It teaches you that baseball is not your priority, you still have to put your job and the things you have to do with your family before that.
“That’s real important.”