Thursday, May 23, 2019
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20181030 BeanBagBaseball IMG 0642Sandy Kiely admitted she wasn’t the slugger on her team.

They awarded that honor to Pat Butler. “He hits a lot of home runs.”

This, of course, came after she had just finished rounding the “bases” following her solo home run for the visiting team at Country Sunshine RV Resort in Weslaco.

The balls in this baseball game were bean bags; the targets were holes inside a wooden board placed 17 feet away from the batters. Hitters would aim for holes designated 1B (single), 2B (double), 3B (triple) or Home Run while trying to avoid the negative consequences like “out” and “strike” holes This was the weekly Friday night bean bag baseball activity and the home team in this case – with Kiely, Butler and a host of other big hitters - were on their way to a comfortable 16-3 victory in game one of the doubleheader.

20181030 BeanBagBaseball IMG 0665“When the season starts, we have to have two boards and two games going on at the same time,” said Debbie Stout, activities director for Country Sunshine and neighboring Southern Comfort RV Park. “They really get into it.”

About 20 players were divided into two teams. The game brought out lefties and righties, men and women of all ages and a fun – but competitive – environment.

“What I like about this is that anybody can play. If you have a handicap it doesn’t matter,” Stout said, adding that she saw the activity first played at Mission West and it piqued her interest. “They got hooked on it last year at Southern Comfort and it’s been very popular here as well.”

20181030 BeanBagBaseball IMG 0592Many of those participating are still competitive in different activities, taking part in Encore’s Senior Olympics every year. Encore is the parent company of several Winter Texan parks in the Rio Grande Valley. Stout has been activity director for the two Encore parks for the past five years and has worked with Encore for 10 years.

Besides Southern Comfort and Country Sunshine, Encore owns seven other South Texas Parks: Paradise South in Mercedes, Victoria Palms in Donna, Alamo Palms in Alamo, Fun-n-Sun in San Benito, Lakewood, Paradise Park and Tropic Winds in Harlingen.

Kiely said she first became interested in just general bean bag tossing during the Encore Senior Olympics and now attends every Friday at Country Sunshine. The Illinois native has been returning to the Valley the past four years and was quick to point out that all the activities offered have been a big reason for her return to the park.

“I love it here,” she said. “I love to play shuffleboard and we just built a new pickle ball court and I love to play cards. I also go next door ever morning to walk and exercise in the fitness room at Southern Comfort.”

She even finds a way to use flea marketing as a way to exercise. “There are a lot down here – I love that.”

After the “home” team won the first game decidedly, Stout mixed up the teams, switching half of the players to the other side. This time it was a closer game, thanks especially to the ”big bat” of Pat Stillar, who homered in consecutive “plate appearances” for the visitors.

20181030 BeanBagBaseball IMG 0603Stillar arrived from Minnesota on Sunday (where he already had snow on three occasions) and, like Kielty and most of those in attendances, competes in the Senior Olympics.

“I love sports,” he said. “I’m involved in the Senior Olympics and love to throw horseshoes – I’m pretty good at that – and bean bag toss and pool.

Hours later, the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers played in the longest World Series of all time. That game didn’t end until after 18 innings – after 2 a.m. Chances are none of the bean bag baseball players saw much of that game. They were too busy preparing for Friday’s next match.

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