DuBourg baseball players playing again 44 years later

Photo courtesy of John Becvar

John Becvar and Tom Long played baseball together 44 years ago at Bishop DuBourg High School, making varsity as sophomores.

They're at it again, not for the Catholic school in south St. Louis, but for the Jets in the St. Louis Baseball Forever League's over-60 division. Long has been in the league for three years and started recruiting old teammate Becvar at their 40th class reunion in 2013.

Becvar, a St. Mark parishioner, told Long he would consider playing after retiring from Anheuser-Busch. Becvar, who played several sports at Dubourg, earned seven letters. His baseball career had ended when he graduated, or so he thought.

"I had to retire in order to play ball," he joked.

After retirement, Becvar went to the first couple indoor practices in January 2014, and the skills came back. He had played slow-pitch softball as many as seven nights a week at one time, and also played basketball, bowling and golf.

"Getting back into the swing of things was a little slow to start, but it came around. ... I can still run," he said with a laugh. "When you get to our age, you have to keep up your strength, do flexibility exercises and keep the aerobics up. If you're doing those three things, you can compete pretty well."

Most players in the league are former high school and college players, with a few having played in the minor leagues. Pitchers throw in the mid-70s and add breaking balls, so it takes a bit of skill to compete.

Over-60 teams are allowed to have a couple of younger players, so the Jets added Keith Aggas, a 1976 DuBourg graduate. Becvar, Long and Aggas also play for the Grays 53 in the over-53 division. The Jets won the division championship over the previously unbeaten Cardinals. A season consists of 20 games, with playoffs in September. Aggas hit .357 in the over-53 division and .409 in the over 60. Becvar hit .530 for the Jets and Long was in the top 10 in the league with a .564 average. He batted in 17 runs.

They have played games at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Heine Meine Park in Lemay, St. Peters Rex-Plex, Forest Park in St. Louis, minor league Gateway Grizzlies' GCS park in Sauget, Ill., and elsewhere. They also played in Florida in the Roy Hobbs World Series. Playing in Florida on the pro fields has been among the highlights.

"It only took me 58 years to play on a pro field," said Long, who started playing in the league after reading about it in a newsletter. "I've been having a great time...The saying is, 'We're fortunate enough to still play the game we love.' The rules are, 'Have fun and don't get hurt.'"

The game is the same as he played in high school, just at a different speed.

"There's guys of all different levels and age groups," said Long, a parishioner at St. Raphael the Archangel. "It's a great group of guys, some great stories. One guy is 70 years of age, and you wouldn't know it. He's fast as lightning.

"It's great to get back and have that camaraderie. Everybody's out there to have fun, so there's a lot of light-hearted ribbing. I've come across guys I've played against in high school and Legion ball."

Players went to high school at DeAndreis, Augustinian, St. John Vianney, St. Mary's and elsewhere.

Long recalled days and nights playing pickup softball games at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish on the paved lot behind the church and school. That experience was among the things that endeared the schoolkids to their parish priest, Father Edmund Fitzgibbons, who kept the lights on for the youngsters. Little did they know that one still would be playing baseball more than four decades later. 

The league

The St. Louis Baseball Forever League is a men's amateur baseball league for players and teams in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

The league, in conjunction with its affiliate partner Roy Hobbs Baseball, promotes baseball, senior baseball and sportsmanship for men 45 years of age and older and is active in charitable activities. It provides league management, professional umpires and playing facilities.

Members play in local leagues and have the opportunity to compete in a variety of in-state, regional, and national tournaments.

For information: www.stlbfl.com or st.louis.baseball.forever@gmail.com 

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