By Vincent Pensabene
The New Jersey Diehards are the quintessential team to represent what the 2022 National Senior Games presented by Humana are all about. They are competing in their third consecutive Games playing men’s softball in the 75+ division.
Al Cheli had no issue transitioning to a managerial position for this year’s event as he suffered an injury and was unable to compete. However, at home he manages six different teams in their league but the moral of the team is to just have fun.
They may be a team, but they are really a group of friends that have gone back 30 years and are still playing for the love of the game. “We get breakfast together all the time,” Al says with an appreciative tone that confirms how close the teammates are with one another. “My wife passed away three years ago and the guys really helped me through everything.”
The oldest player on the team is Gene Stracco at 78 years old, and he has been a fixture in the Jersey softball league for 45 years. He gave the biggest smile as he says, “You’re never too old to play and enjoy it while you can.” The positive energy emanates from the dugout and they are thrilled to be playing a kid’s game in the 75 year old division.
Al dictated a poetic masterpiece addressing the team before their first game of the tournament, telling them, “Move up on the plate, get your head out of your ass, and try to score one more run than them!”
The New Jersey Diehards won the silver medal in the 70+ Division 2 Softball event in 2017 and finished in fifth in the 2019 Games in 70+ Division 2. The Diehards are a prime example of what being a member of the National Senior Games are all about.
To find out how the Diehards and the rest of the softball teams have done so far, check out results here.