Margie Gruca turned 80 a couple of Saturdays ago and celebrated, as one does, by throwing the first pitch in the Manly Warringah Softball Association A-Grade game between Angels and Sorts.
Gruca, who took up the game after celebrating her 50th birthday and today plays second base for Condors Blue, told Beaches Champion that she’s been coming down to the Abbott Road diamonds for 30 years because she loves “the game and the great friendships formed.”
“I got my first bat at 50 years old and have played here at MWSA ever since.
“I started out pitching, graduated to first base and now have a small zone of influence at second base.
“I look forward to it all week, I love it,” Gruca said.
With 3 children and 7 grandchildren, Gruca has no shortage of practice partners. Early in her career she remembers “going down to the fields with my youngest daughter to practice a new pitch called a strike!” Gruca laughed.
She has since mastered the finer arts of softball, thought it’s the friendships that keep ‘Margie the Magnificent’ coming back.
“If you are thinking of taking up or returning to softball, do it no matter your age!
“You won’t regret the fun, new skills and friendships with very special people,” Gruca enthused.
After the ceremonial pitch in the A-Grade fixture at Diamond 1, Angels ran out decisive winners over Sorts 7-0. Last Saturday the teams met again with Sorts gaining revenge 5-3.
In the other A-Grade match earlier in the day, Dodgers defeated Piranhas 5-2, with two of MWSA’s Olympians, Michelle Cox and Jade Wall, in hot form for Dodgers.
It was a typically busy day at Abbott Road Diamonds with 20 new ‘Blastballers’ and their families enjoying a free program run by MWSA to introduce the basics of softball – fielding, catching, throwing, batting and running – to young children, according to MWSA official Janine Rolfe.
“Blastball is a game designed for action, enthusiasm and fun for boys and girls aged 3-5.
“Onlookers had no doubt – the Blastballers slept well that night!” Rolfe said.
At the same time, the Teeballers and Modballers took to the diamonds for the first matches of the day. Rolfe told the Beaches Champion that for “many of these young players, Saturday was only their first or second ever match”.
“Teeballers play at 8:30am every Saturday morning and are already making new friends and revelling playing team sport,” Rolfe said.
MWSA is one of the largest and most successful softball associations in NSW. Across 13 grades played on Saturday, MWSA hosted 32 matches involving upwards 700 players.
“Just under 200 of those players are new to MWSA and softball this season,” Rolfe said.
Just as 50-year-old Margie Gruca was in 1992.
Rolfe told Beaches Champion that those who’d follow in the footsteps of the woman they’re calling Margie the Magnificent, should get in touch via MWSA@mwsa.com.au; or by calling her on 0410 601 077.
“For social players, parents and those wanting to try something new, mixed slow pitch is returning to MWSA later this month.
“Slow pitch is played on Friday evenings at Abbott Road – there is no better way to finish the working week and roll into the weekend!” Rolfe said.
Registrations are open for individuals, groups of friends and teams (of 9-12 players).
Meanwhile, MWSA has had a good start to its representative campaign at Softball NSW’s State Championships, coming second in U/23 women’s and joint winners in the O/35s women’s.
Elsewhere the U/10 girls are training hard ahead of their State tournament in early April.