Posted By Todd Hambleton
Softball legend Jim Martell came across an article in the archives that described him as a "veteran''. He also noticed that the article had been printed 24 years ago, in 1983.
"I thought that was pretty funny,'' Martell said on Friday, on the eve of his departure for the Australian-Asian Masters Games in Adelaide.
That article was about the 32-year-old veteran Martell. This one is about the 56-year-old veteran Martell, who will in a few days be competing in his sixth international masters tournament. That's an impressive number considering Martell retired from the game 16 years ago, but was lured back to the field when the opportunity to play baseball arose.
He's been around (the world) a while. Martell toured with the California Cuties in the late Seventies, he was the "Clown Prince of Softball'' when he had his four-man touring softball show called The Prince and His Knights in the Eighties. Then came all of the trips Down Under, and elsewhere.
He's looking ahead to more travel, too. Martell said a handful of players from the Cornwall fastball league have each earmarked $500 for a trip in 2009 to the World Masters Games in Sydney, Australia. "That'll be the next one . . . it might be the last one,'' Martell said with a laugh.
Seriously, will it be his final international event, when he's 58? Perhaps. Martell, in a perfect world, will reach his goal of competing internationally when he hits the age of 60. But, he also wants to be a difference-maker on the field, not a passenger in the dugout. "The minute when I'm not contributing to a team getting wins, I'll get out,'' Martell said.
It'll be a goal worth keeping an eye on. Martell's team in Adelaide, the Redback club based in Sydney, is competing in a Masters Division for 35-44-year-olds. Every time Martell steps into the batters' box, he's giving away at least 12 years to his opponents.
Natural ability will only take a player so far when Father Time starts interceding, so what are the other secrets to Martell's diamond longevity?
"I don't know, I don't do much (training-wise),'' said Martell, owner of Cornwall Cruising. "I don't work out, but I'm going all the time, which helps.''
Martell again in the summer of 2007 stayed busy on the fields, playing twice a week in Cornwall, and one or two more times each week in an American league, playing for Winthrop, N.Y.
"That keeps you in decent shape,'' he said.
Martell lately has also stayed away from the injury bug. His last major setback was in 2005 when he suffered torn ligaments in his right knee, requiring surgery in Winchester. Add this to the softball legend's resum‚: when the surgery was completed, Martell was able to walk out of the recovery room, sans crutches.
"(The repair job) was amazing,'' Martell said. "I couldn't believe it.''
And so he's set to go again, with his wife Angela, and with a three-day rest-and-relaxation layover in Fiji. Then it's on to Adelaide for what will be a 10-day tournament, and Martell will follow that up with some deep-sea fishing trips and golf as part of a month-long excursion.
"(Australia is) where I caught my first shark (in 1994),'' said Martell, who's also known as Salmon Jim.
It was a teacher exchange program that Angela participated in that opened the door years ago to Martell's Australian adventures. The last time Martell went over was in 2003, and it was a memorable occasion: at Canberra, Martell suited up for a Team Canada squad that finished first at the six-team Australian Masters Games. Martell, then 52, was Canada's go-to guy, batting cleanup, and his infield hit led to the winning run in a championship-game 3-0 victory against the Sydney Storm.
Martell, inducted into the Cornwall Sports Hall of Fame earlier this decade, has made a lot of contacts in the sport during his career, and he's played against the Redback team on four different occasions. About five months ago, Redback team officials contacted Martell about joining them for the 2007 tournament.
"I've just gotten to know so many people through fastball,'' Martell said. "There's a social aspect to it. You play against (your opponents), then you have a beer with them. . . of course, if Canada had a team there (in Adelaide), I'd want to play with Canada.''
Martell with Redback will play his usual first-base position. "I said I'd play anywhere they ask me too, and that I'd be happy to do that,'' Martell recounted.
Indeed, there are a number of positions on the field that Martell has familiarized himself with over the years.
He's a veteran at this, you know.