30 Year Teammate Story

Roy Hobbs 30 Year Teammates

By GLENN MILLER
Roy Hobbs Baseball
RHWS 30

Roy Hobbs World Series 30 Teammate Stories

Six hardy men have combined for 180 years of Roy Hobbs World Series experience.The 2018 World Series is the 30th for these six and these six alone: Dave Mathews, Troy Cox, Fran Podraza, Darryl Miller, Steve Elias and Harvey Swisher.

When they began playing the World Series in 1989 it was still held in central Florida. Back then, most of the ballfields that have been sites of countless games since the event moved to Lee County moved in 1993 did not exist.

What was then called the Lee County Sports Complex opened in 1991, followed in 1993 by City of Palms Park. JetBlue Park opened in 2012.

Yes, these veterans have seen and experienced much in 30 years of Roy Hobbs Baseball.

When they played in their first World Series the World Wide Web did not exist. There weren’t things called Facebook and YouTube and Twitter in 1989.

Current big-league standouts Madison Bumgarner, Anthony Rizzo, Chris Sale, George Springer and Giancarlo Stanton were born in 1989.

Other current stars such as Mike Trout, Carlos Correa, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were not yet born.

Yet, these six men with 180 years combined time in the Roy Hobbs World Series were playing baseball and they still play.How long have they been playing?

The year of their first Roy Hobbs World Series was also the year that professional golfer Rory McIlroy, football players Rob Gronkowski and Cam Newton and pop star Taylor Swift were born.

A very long time, indeed.

The year that Mathews, Cox, Podraza, Miller, Elias and Swisher started playing Roy Hobbs was the year that baseball bad boy Billy Martin, artist Salvador Dali, boxer Sugar Ray Robinson and actress Lucille Ball all died.

Yep, a very long time.

When they started playing in the Roy Hobbs World Series the franchise now known as the Tampa Bay Rays did not exist.

The major league’s two leading hitters from 1989 have passed away – that’s Tony Gwynn from the National League and Kirby Puckett from the American League.
Two enduring and vastly different baseball films were released in 1989 – “Field of Dreams” and “Major League.”

What has kept them returning year after year, decade after decade for nearly a third of a century to their own fields of dreams and their own major league?
We asked them all the same questions over the summer.

Dave Mathews

What has baseball meant to you?

“I started playing hardball at age 44. Since then, baseball has become a significant part of the joy in my life. The gratification of learning a new skill and getting proficient at it over a 30-year period has stoked my enthusiasm for this wonderful game.  It has opened a social network of like-minded, positive people who maintain a vibrant lifestyle into their 70’s and 80’s.

“If you want to compete at a high level, you must keep in superb condition.  The excitement of rehashing a game and strategizing this fascinating game with your teammates, really gets the competitive juices flowing.”

What keeps you coming back?

“Camaraderie and friendships with hundreds of people.”
“(Roy Hobbs World Series) has the best organization and fields.”
“The thrill of ‘barreling’ up a frozen rope.”
“The thrill of making a great catch in the outfield.”
“The chance to win a championship.”

Your favorite baseball memory?

“Beating the Florida Masters in 1999.  I played for the AAAA Florida Masters from 1995-1998.  We never lost a game, 38-0. During this time, I played for the younger Tacoma team, and the older 48+ Florida team in the same week. In 1999, they put me on ‘waivers.’ “Our Tacoma team ended up playing them in the AAAA quarterfinal game.  We ended their 46-game winning streak.  I made 13 putouts in centerfield.  What a joy going through the line, smiling at my old teammates.”

Steve Elias

What has baseball meant to you?

“I am sure every player who is involved with Roy Hobbs will say baseball is a big part of their life. In my case I believe it has taken away the concern of getting older. Every single time I get on that field, put on my catcher’s gear I am a kid once again. In our league I play with many younger players. I always remind them to play every game like it’s the last one you will ever play … because you never know when that might be.”

What keeps you coming back?

“The competition would be the primary reason along with the love of the game that keeps me coming back to Roy Hobbs. However, after 29 (going on 30) years the camaraderie with the players both on my team and opponents has to be right up there. Over 30 years many friends have been made, and sadly some have passed on.”

What is your favorite memory?

“I have been lucky enough to play at the OLD Yankee Stadium in 1994…. I hit 2 grand slams in one game in our league in 1996. However, the championship we won the very first year of the Roy Hobbs World Series in 1989 with the New Jersey Wonderboys will remain the greatest baseball memory I have.”

Troy Cox

What has baseball meant to you?

“ ‘BASEBALL, BASEBALL, BASEBALL!’ is what my first wife said at our divorce hearing in front of the Judge who asked her, ‘What is the problem with Mr. Cox?’
“My response was simply, ‘I rest my case your honor.’
“My current wife, Diane of 14 plus years (since April 17, 2004), is a Baseball ANGEL and a SAINT too.
“In short, Baseball is LIFE, a sense of freedom, and passion of my youth with memories of my Dad and brother enjoying the game we all shared and loved. It will never go away.”

What keeps you coming back?

“I keep coming back because I love the Roy Hobbs World Series baseball experience with my Americans Baseball TEAM family. Baseball, Beers, and Buddies, living the dream. …. And, of course, our ANGELS (the Women of the Team).”

What is your favorite memory?

“In 30 years, the memories are great and plentiful including the 8 World Series Championships plus every team match up we ever experienced.
“We were the first USA team to play the U.S.S.R. team in 1989 in a live broadcast exhibition at Boardwalk & Baseball at the first Roy Hobbs World Series. We finished as runner-up in the 30+ Division that year and we had 5 players on the All World Series Tourney Team.
“That was our first great memory, and every year after that. We have had many special moments on and off the baseball field at each World Series. This year will 30 straight years. Gotta be a record.”

Fran Podraza

What has baseball meant to you?

“Baseball keeps my mind and body active. As we get older, to do all the things we like to do, we must keep our brain as active as we can. The same for our body. We must keep them active – playing baseball does that, plus we have a great time doing it whether we win or lose. We are with our friends.”

What keeps you coming back?

“The people that I have met over the 30 years. Many of them are now close friends even when the live all over the USA. Friends who I met at the Hobbs that live in Florida I get together with them during the year. The others I look forward to seeing them on the field. It’s something I really look forward to.”

What is your favorite memory?

“All the players that I have met over the 30 years. But my favorite memory was winning our first Hobbs Championship. Mike Shevlin shut out a team that buried us 6 years prior in our first championship game where I played my worst game of my life. When Shevy got the last batter out, Chuck Nave, my closest Baseball friend, grabbed me as we left the dugout and said, ‘how does it feel to have the monkey off my back?’ I’ll remember that for the rest of my life. I’m a very lucky man to have some of the finest people in the world as my friends. For that I can thank baseball.”

Darrell Miller

What has baseball meant to you?

“Pretty much everything. … I’ve played from Little League on up. There was about a five-year period after I had high school I had to play softball. …
“Troy (Cox) set up Eau Gallie High School alumni games and I got the baseball itch. … We got involved with Stan Musial Baseball and played that. That’s why I’m still playing.”

What keeps you coming back?

“It’s my vacation. I don’t take any time off during the year. I like being out of town and staying in a hotel. That’s my fun time of year.”

What is your favorite baseball memory?

“My dad never really came to any of my games, Little League on up. But he came to a Roy Hobbs league game in Palm Bay, Fla. It was probably my best game ever. Had a single, double and home run and knocked in 2 runs with each. 6 RBI.
“To have him there for that game kind of stands out. I was about 40. His name was Clarence. He died about 15 years ago. He was 82.”

Harvey Swisher

What does baseball mean to you?

“In a word, to me baseball is ‘everything.’ I have always loved playing. It is like a vice. It is a healthy outlet for me. It helps relieve stress and keeps me young. It is about tradition and family. In May 2012, I had a cardiac arrest (died) and was resuscitated by my daughter and some good Samaritans. I received hypothermia therapy. Three days later, when I awoke from the induced coma, I said:

“What the heck happened?
“Where is my wife?
“I guess baseball is out of the question.
“After some intense therapies I was ready to play in November.”

What keeps you coming back year after year?

“I keep coming back “for the love of the game. I love to play, and Roy Hobbs has provided the fields. There is camaraderie here. It is great seeing the same guys year after year. I have scheduled surgeries around the Roy Hobbs World Series. One year I came after bilateral (double) knee replacements. And in 2012 I had a planned right shoulder replacement in March and then an unplanned cardiac arrest (died for about 20 minutes) in May and still was in Ft. Myers to play in November.”

What is your favorite RH memory?

“My favorite memory is the first year. I got a call from Ron Monks (Roy Hobbs founder) asking if I wanted to come play baseball for a week in November. I had not hit a baseball in 20 years. But I received a blessing from my wife and came down to give it a try. I played on a pick-up team with a few other men from Tallahassee. I had a career that week. I wish I had kept my batting average. It must have been over .800. I only got out four times. I made some awesome plays from centerfield. We even played and beat the Russian Olympic team. I came back to Tallahassee and told our softball team that we had to go back the next year. We have had the same core group of guys for years now.”

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