Staying Power

click to enlarge Clarence Fountain, 76 - TODD RICHARDSON
Clarence Fountain, 76

Sitting behind the desk at the Kids & Kubs office in downtown St. Petersburg, Clarence Fountain is talking about how the body of an old softball player breaks down. "The first to go is the legs, then the arm, the third thing … I can't remember," he says with a mischievous grin.

The storied softball club for people 75 and over (there's one woman on the team), which just completed its 74th season, is where the oldest of aging jocks go for fun, fellowship and, make no mistake about it, competition.

In late April, The Kids & Kubs hosted a 75-and-over tournament for teams across the country. Fountain pitched and batted third. A fast worker, he'd receive the ball from the catcher and release his pitch in practically the same motion. He made two Gold Glove-style grabs of hard shots hit back to the mound, wheeled and made the throw to first. "Basically, there's an inability to judge the balls in the outfield, and the fellas don't run down a lot of balls out there," he explains. "The infielders don't charge the ball much, and if they have to make the throw from short in the hole, they have to put some arc on it."

The Kids & Kubs season ends in April, but Fountain works to stay in shape during the off time, as well as playing informal softball games. He logs miles on the Pinellas County Trail on his three-speed bike. The morning we met, he said he'd done 400 crunches, some meditative stretching and sets of close-hand pushups to work his triceps. He understands folks' discontent over waning athleticism, but is pretty much over it himself. "The frustration over stuff I couldn't do, that started 40 years ago," he says with a laugh.

At the tournament, The Kids & Kubs and their opponents had plenty of pop in their bats. The players' most noticeable athletic deficiency was a lack of speed on the base paths (not from lack of effort, though; these guys dig it out). Anybody expecting a bunch of doddering geezers gimping around the diamond would be in for a surprise.

The dugout chatter is a delightful slice of bygone Americana. The guys split the time encouraging and needling each other. Watching the games makes you feel sorry for men too infirm or resolutely over-the-hill to partake. The Kids & Kubs exhibit a kind of vitality and enthusiasm we all hope to have in our advanced years.

Fountain says there's still plenty of ego and competitive zeal among the members. "If I went onto that field with the idea of losing," he says, "I'd be in that rocking chair pretty quick."

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