By Sue Botos
You could say that members of the Kenilworth women’s softball team are the real “Golden Girls.”
The team, sponsored by Kenilworth Tavern in Lakewood and Rockport Assisted and Independent Living in Rocky River, survived rain and a schedule that would exhaust a major leaguer to beat the hometown rival Ohio Rockers for their bracket’s gold medal at the National Senior Games.
“It’s still hard to believe. The funny part is that we beat a local team to win,” commented team organizer Ann Zubricky-Kocur of the rain-shortened championship game with the Rockers, who have received much attention from the Cleveland media. She added that Kenilworth, competing in the 50-plus age group, finished with a 5-3 record over a period of three days. Some of those games, she noted, weren’t exactly during prime time, due to weather and scheduling conflicts with local leagues.
But Kitty Kadas, team member and marketing director for Rockport, said that games beginning at 10 p.m. and later gave the experience a unique atmosphere. “There was a full moon and mist on the field, and we were out there playing at 12:30 a.m. How cool!” Kadas recalled. The squad played two games that evening, and another one the following morning at 8 a.m.
Unfortunately, some of Kenilworth’s biggest fans were unable to attend a game due to the weather. Kadas said that Rockport residents had filled a bus, and were looking forward to watching the squad in action. “One resident even had his outfit picked out for the game,” she recalled.
Team member Karen Maxfield, of Lakewood, said that the competition, which featured teams from warm-weather states that played year-round, proved to be intense. “There was one team, Serious Fun from Tennessee. They were a great group of gals, and they could hit the living daylights out of the ball,” she recalled.
Maxfield agreed with Kadas that the games were quite a moving experience. “I’m not a tearjerker-type person, but when we qualified for the silver medal, then the gold medal game, it really hit an emotional chord,” she recalled, adding that there were few dry eyes, even among her more stoic teammates.
Playing in front of her family made the games even more meaningful to Maxfield, who said her children and grandchildren celebrated the team’s victory by presenting her with a cake decked out with a gold medal and the Olympic rings.
Both Kadas and Maxfield credited Zubricky-Kocur with navigating the complex bracket setup to give their squad as many advantages as possible. “Let’s just say you have to know how the brackets work. You have to watch how they play out,” Zubricky-Kocur said.
It took Zubricky-Kocur about four years to organize the squad, which qualified for the games by winning a tournament in Parma last year. Team members said they were looking forward to showing off the outcome of her hard work by wearing their gold medals during the Parade of Athletes, which was held Friday at Quicken Loans Arena.
Although the common theme among the athletes was “sore and tired,” they don’t plan on retiring their gloves anytime soon, and hope to compete in the next National Senior Games. “The whole team wants to stick together. We’re already talking about (Minneapolis) Minnesota in two years,” Kadas stated.