A Brief History of Hawthorne Softball
Hawthorne’s first softball team organized in the late 90’s and joined the already established Sun and Fun Senior Softball League in 2002. This league was started in December of 1991, with 6 founding members, all 55+ parks. They were Lakes at Leesburg, Scottish Highlands, Holiday Travel Resort, Sunlake Estates, Water Oak, and Lake Griffin Isles. The 2019-20 Sun and Fun League consists of 43 teams representing fourteen 55+ parks in the area.
The earliest games at Hawthorne were played up near the Sales Office. Construction of current softball field was in the original (1974) plan for the park, but wasn’t constructed until the early 2000’s.
By October 2005, when I joined the team, we had 14 players on ONE team. Romie Marble (front right) was player/manager.
Players on the team: back row – Marty Boermeester, Jim Herbert, Duane Dagostino, Don Cutcliffe, Art Arcouette, Tommy O’Heran, Don Bruess, Tommy Miranda; front row – Hugh Stock, Ben Milazzo, Lloyd Hinton, Jimmy Pike, Dale Blanton, Romie Marble.
We played every Tuesday and Friday morning from November to March. Only one of those players (Jim Herbert) is still playing for Hawthorne, though seven still live in the Hawthorne. Romie Marble heads our stellar umpires. Ben Milazzo started as a player, managed several teams, and became a frequent game umpire before retiring from competition.
Here’s our field (via Google Earth) in 2006.
Notice the odd outfield fence. We had oak trees in right center field! We also had trees that overshadowed the 3rd base line and NO fences from the dugouts to the outfield fence!
By 2008, we had enough players to form another team. It played in the Lakes League, a local league with teams from Spanish Village, Recreation Plantation, Legacy, Continental, and Royal Harbor. This league played games on Monday and Wednesday, so our team included a few players from the Sun and Fun team along with many new players. It was managed by Ben Milazzo.
Players in the photo: back row: Bob Dodge, Marty Boermeester, Jim Herbert, Bernie Prouix, Don Cutcliffe, Duane Dagostino, Butch Albright, Gary Butler; front row: Tom Fenimore, Dale Blanton, Hugh Stock, Sam Getter, Marcia Boerger, Marcia Sigley, Ben Milazzo
Competition in the Lakes League proved very stiff and, after winning only 10 games out of 84 over 3 seasons, we decided, in 2011, to move the Lakes team into the Sun and Fun’s lowest division. There they won 13 games, more than in all the years in the Lakes League. The two Sun and Fun teams were now totally separate, with no players being able to play on both teams. The new Sun and Fun team was managed by Ben Milazzo, followed a few years later by Dave O’Conner. It’s now managed by Dan Fortunato.
2012 marked the first season of our Ladies Softball Team. They struggled for a year, then won their league and League Divisional Tournament at the end of the season.
In 2013, we formed a 68+ Softball team. Players as young as 50 can play in the Sun and Fun league, so this team gave our older players a place to compete with their age-peers. Bill Bibler managed this team and it joined three other teams from the local area to form a mini-league. They played in the afternoon, starting at 2 PM, from January to March.
Most of the players on our 68+ team ALSO played on one of the Sun and Fun teams. This league ceased play in 2016.
We’ve usually had enough players to “man” all these teams. Sometimes we had barely enough to field 11 players, sometimes we could only field 10. On rare occasions, we had to forfeit games because we couldn’t even find NINE players, the minimum number, by league rules, to play in a game.
In 2014-2015, however, our Sun and Fun teams enjoyed a wealth of interest. Rosters swelled to 17 or 18 players on each team. When, in March, 2015, we asked if any residents would be interest in playing softball in the 2015-16 season, we had over a dozen NEW people sign up. We made the decision to enter a NEW team in the Sun and Fun League, giving us three in this league and FIVE teams all together.
The 2015-2016 season saw almost 70 home games played here at Hawthorne. In March, we hosted the South Lake County 68+ Senior Softball League tournament and the preliminary rounds of the Del Webb Invitational Tournament, Division 4.
Of course, the 2019-20 was marked by the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic. While all teams finished their regular seasons, the Sun and Fun postseason tournament was, for the first time, cancelled. Previous to the pandemic, 52 games were played here at Hawthorne.
Even if you’re not playing, you certainly can come down to the field and watch one of our EXCITING (sometimes) games. You can get some sun and fresh air and even have lunch at our DUGOUT CAFE.