Ed Martens stood there in the middle of a group of people, never getting a moment alone -- and all was right with the world.
That made the 20th annual Winter Texan softball rivalry games between Canada and the United States a super celebratory event with plenty of fun, laughter – and competition. There were USA and Canada memorabilia being carried around, chants of "U-S-A" and "Canada" throughout the games, food and games within games for the annual event. At the center of it all was Martens.
“It’s good to be back, to be here,” Martens said, adding that he was feeling just fine. “It’s a beautiful day to play.”
Canada won the matchup in both divisions, 9-5 and 17-10 but everyone won on a day where they played two under nearly perfect weather conditions. Canada pulled away from a 4-4 with five straight runs in the “B” Division game while exploding for nine runs in the top of the seventh inning while trailing 10-8 in the “A” Division
Teams wore new jerseys, all bearing “Ed Martens” along the front. Martens, considered the godfather, founder and guru of Winter Texan softball, has stepped back from too much involvement and missed last year’s event due to health issues. He was back, however, looking terrific and talking about his new love for biking.
Maybe the fans even had more fun than the players, most wearing both Canada and U.S. flags in their caps or somewhere on their bodies.
Ralph and Charlene Thompson, of Lake Park Minnesota, dressed up for the occasion – especially Ralph with his USA hat, American flag tie and the stars and stripes shorts. He also had a Winter Texan T-shirt with both US and Canada flags on it.
“I get carried away,” Ralph said. “My wife hasn’t gotten all those sharp edges of mine flattened out.”
The couple live in Wintergreen Estates and Ralph hasn’t played for about four years, since he separated his shoulder pretending to be Derek Jeter in the hole at short.
“My wife said I thought I was 18 at the time when I dove for the ball,” said Ralph, who played some small college baseball before participating in all different types of softball leagues. “I’m planning to be back next year though.”
Ralph said he is simply amazed by the work Martens did, primarily on his own for 30 years, starting the league and sustaining it.
“He just did a fantastic job of running the league,” Ralph said. “I admire that man immensely. I love the camaraderie, fellowship and getting together.”
The senior softball league is always looking for more players. If you’re interested, call McAllen Parks and Recreation at (956) 681-3315.