Thursday, April 25, 2019
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20190320 Baseball IMG 4065League Commissioner Ed Martens retires – maybe

It was only fitting that the sun came out at Westside Park during the annual Senior Texan Softball All-Star Games.

Not only did it shine, but it seemed to shine even a little brighter around Ed Martens. Martens, from Minnesota, is the father – the creator – of the Senior Texan Softball League and All-Star Game. The players call him “Commissioner.” He has worked (even though he's retired) endlessly during those two-plus decades, promoting a sport he loves, a game he's played for decades.

But this is his last year – oh, he'll still be around (there's no way you can tear him away from a passion that is as close to him as his own skin) but more in an advisory role, so he says.

20190320 Baseball Marten IMG 4223He's 86 years old now and uses a softball bat to help him walk on a gimp ankle that he said he may have to go home to Minnesota early to have taken care of. He played softball for 28 years back home, until he needed a new shoulder; he also played until about two or three years ago in the Valley, the shoulder again giving him problems.

But Martens is more than a softball player, he's softball personified – from playing to coordinating to making sure everything is done. He said his floor at home in his Winter Texan park's RV is covered with papers, all softball related. His phone rings endlessly with questions about the teams and league.

Two games took place this year at Westside Park and the annual Canada vs USA friendly contests were dominated by the Canadian teams. They won the first game, a more competitive game, 8-6 and rolled in the latter game “something like 13-2,” Martens said. “But they are both just friendly games. There were even three guys from the U.S. in the first game on the Canada side. It's all about being able to play and having fun.”

Easy plays were fumbled, tough plays were made and Canada fans heavily outweighed USA fans, donning the maple-leaf flag. However, many fans were fans of both, enjoying hot dogs, laughing at the silliness some plays turned into and, cheering for the success of both teams.

All this lies on the shoulders of Martens, who was asked those 25 years ago to help start a league – and he took it to heart. Yet, he never takes credit for the big role he plays in putting the league together.

He said last week's event seemed a little strange.

20190320 Baseball IMG 3958“It's the last one,” he said, his eyes never leaving the field as he watched the two teams battle it out. “I'll help out a little with the Monday/Wednesday group and build that and get more players and we'll start the league in November.”

He has plans, however, plans to do things he hasn't done with regularity for some time.

“I want to start biking more, I like that,” he said. “And we have two pools at the park, and I'll go to South Padre or San Antonio for a week maybe here and there if I just want to get away. The guys who will run the committee for the softball league are very capable and will be able to handle it.

“I'm not going to interfere – but if they need my advice, they can always call on me.”

Still, everyone who knows Ed knows that softball will be within a softball bat's reach from him. He's already devising a plan to get more softball players next year – hit 'em up early.

20190320 Baseball IMG 4106“I’m in an RV park that has probably 80 activities or more,” he said. “Pickleball is incredibly popular and now there’s beanbag baseball, and darts are getting very popular again and they don't have to leave the park to have this competition.

“So we're going to try to get them as soon as they get to the Valley. Maybe we can gain some interest before they settle and commit to a certain routine.”

Many of the players have been involved with the league and have played several times in the all-star game. Ken Subbert, of Iowa, said he enjoys playing not only because of the camaraderie but also because it provides him some exercise. He made some good plays for the U.S. in the second game.

Cindy Ellis, who stays at Wagon City South, was there to watch and support two players – one from each team. She said not only does she enjoy watching the games but it's yet another fun event to spend time with friends and make new ones. “It's always different, every year,” she said. “But everyone has a good time – plus we're not back home where it's still terribly cold and snowing.”

20190320 Baseball IMG 4190Temperatures reached the low 80s on this day – a near perfect day for softball. Meanwhile, back in St. Paul, Minn., the high was 38 and the low was 15. On March 2 in Denver, the high was 6 and the low was -6, making it the coldest March day in Denver since March 12, 1880. Nearly everyone we asked wasn't in any rush to head back north, many saying they would return in mid-April.

Martens remembers playing South Texas softball before the Senior Texan League was established. Only three parks were playing then, he said – Tip 'O Texas, Tropic Star and Bentsen Grove. That's when he took over and opened it for everyone.

“We had players coming from Edinburg, La Joya, Mission and even Harlingen,” he said. “Now we're hoping to get five teams for the league next year. It's funny, during all these years, all the people have been nothing but nice. I've put a lot of time in it and never really had a problem with any of them.

“I'm going to miss that contact with them.”

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