The boys of autumn: ‘Young Viejos’ play ball

COARL GABLES, Fla. -- Mario Gonzalez stepped up to the plate, the elastic band of his shorts stretched across his belly. With white sunscreen smeared across his face, he held the softball bat expertly over his shoulder.

“This guy is 82 years old, and he can play,” marvels Jerry Stokes, 77, from the dugout.

Crack — Gonzalez sent the yellow softball flying low into right field and took off with surprising speed (for an octogenarian) toward first base.

A Cuban semi-professional player in his youth, Gonzalez is considered one of the best team members on the Young Viejos, Spanish for “Young Old Men,” a league for those 65 and older. With an average age of 77, they say they are the oldest ballplayers in the world.

Decked out in teal shirts and white caps emblazoned with the letters “YV,” they get together twice a week at the Coral Gables War Memorial Youth Center for a game of ball — bum shoulders, creaky knees and pot-bellies be damned.

“They say ‘ la tercera edad’ [senior citizens]. That’s not true. You feel 25 again. You come here and forget about your pills and your blood pressure,” said team member Manny P. Alvarez, 81.

Plus, quipped Ron Cold, 73: “It’s cheaper than golf.”

Read more: