Starting back in 1993 Tom Conti, age 65, played softball at The Villages retirement complex in Florida. When he came back to Vernon he approached Steve Krajewski of the Vernon Recreational Department. Finding out no seniors leagues existed in the area Tom started one with Steve’s help. Posters were printed and local newspapers carried articles about the proposed league. July 19, 1993 at 9 a.m. the first sign-up and scrimmage took place. The second registration and sign-up on July 22 at 9 a.m. proved that a seniors league would be a reality. Thirty-nine players had turned out and the Vernon senior softball players never looked back. The league accepts players from all towns as long as they are 55 years of age or older.
The first night of the league 19-20 men showed up and ‘pick-up’ teams were formed. A challenge was issued to the Journal Inquirer, local sportswriters and the mayor of Vernon to play a ‘bragging rights’ game. The seniors put up quite a challenge but lost the game. In the process quite a few new players were picked up.
The first field was the Little League field at Henry Park. About a year later the league started to play at the Vernon Community Field. (The field location may be found by selecting the Map page from our main menu) The first two teams were formed, the Falcons and Eagles, and the rest is history. Now in 2011 we have eight teams and over 100 players have signed up. The youngest player is 55 and the oldest is 86.
Most of the rules established back in 1993 are still in force today. The safety, health and welfare of league members are the main concern. Sliding into bases is prohibited; two bags are used at first base – one for the runner and one for the fielder; pinch runners are allowed; and no tag-outs at home plate; and overruns at all bases are allowed.
The two teams established in 1994 were the Eagles and Falcons. Players from those teams that are still active in 2008 are: Don Graves.
Most of the older players are in pretty good shape and can still hit the ball. Players that have had knee replacements and heart surgery can still play a good game of ball. The league plays in at least two softball tournaments every year. Players from the league are selected to participate on the more competitive Travel Teams. The Vernon Travel Team played in the Cape Cod Tournament when it had only fourteen teams. That year Vernon came in second place. During the 1997 season the Travel Team won a gold medal at the Connecticut Senior Games. The 2007 Cape Cod Tournament, with 48 teams, saw the 60’s travel team being fourth seeded and the 65’s travel team loose on the final day to the tournament winner. 2008 saw the 60’s travel team win a silver medal at the Connecticut Senior Games and the 65’s win the gold.
Early team photographs
June 16, 2003 was a milestone for the Vernon league. On that day the league was incorporated under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and officially became known as the Vernon Seniors Softball League, Inc. We now enjoy the benefits of a tax-exempt organization. This year the league also purchased supplemental liability insurance to help protect the members that might become injured while playing with the league.
The league expanded again in 2006 with the addition of a seventh team. 2008 saw the league add an additional team the Owls. This 8th team could not be sustained but 2011 saw 8 full teams once again. During the period of 2005-2008 printed rosters were prepared, by Ed Phelps, for all members and the League Bylaws, Rules of Play and Travel Team Guidelines were combined into a single easy to read booklet. The league website, designed, written and produced by Ed Phelps, began during late 2006 as a free trial site. By early 2007 it had expanded into its present form.
1993-1995 Tom Conti
1995-1998 Dick Maher
1998-2001 Ron Gates
2001-2003 Jim Black
2003-2005 Joseph Handleman
2005-2006 Joseph Verdon
2006-2009 Joseph Nolette
2009-2010 Sam Cuscovitch
2010-2012 Mary Gracyalny
2012-2015 Bob Lathrop
2015-to 2018 Kevin Conklin
2018 to present Craig Tanner
Compiled by: Edson Phelps (last updated by Bill Hettinger October 2018)
Thanks for their help: Bob Brennan, Don Graves
Tom Conti without whose help this history couldn’t have been written. Tom supplied numerous newspaper clippings, old programs and photographs.