What started unofficially in the late 1980s with four teams has blown into a county mainstay. Today, 30 teams and about 420 players compete in the Flagler coed league.
Joy Allen, first baseman for Soft Tail Apparel and Perez Mobile Auto Repair & Service, has been playing adult coed softball in Flagler County for exactly half of her life. She’s 46 years old.
Sure, she’s gone on the “disabled list” a couple of times with a bad case of pregnancy, she admits. But those breaks don’t count. She’s the longest active player in all of Flagler softball, she says, having played since the first game of the first season.
“It’s my out,” she says. “It’s very relaxing, even though I’m very competitive.”
Allen has been playing softball all of her life, and met her husband in a coed league in DeLand the year before she moved to Flagler. But it wasn’t love at first sight.
“I hated him the first time I met him,” she says. “He hit two homers against us in one game. And they were both inside-the-parkers!”
Run independently by residents, the league had four teams in the beginning, she added. Now, it’s the most popular adult team sport in the county.
“Adultwise, softball is taking over,” said Ernie Toth, sports volunteer. With youth, soccer is king in Flagler, with more than 1,200 yearly players and growing.
(Toth says if baseball gets more than 500 kids a year, it’s a lot.)
Today, between four adult coed divisions playing in the summer league alone, there are 30 teams and about 420 players. There are also men’s, women’s and senior leagues year-round.
But for Allen, who has always played on the same “core team” (Perez Mobile), coed is more than a game. It’s family tradition.
“It’s a joke that you have to marry in or someone has to die to get (a spot on the roster),” she said.
One of her favorite memories is when her brother-in-law took the field for the first time with all four of his kids. Out of 10 people on the diamond, Allen said, eight were related.
“This season, I got to play for the first time with both of my (daughters),” she added, noting that her mother- and father-in-law attend every game, cheering in the stands.
Allen’s goal is to play at least until she’s 50 years old. With 23 seasons behind her though, she’s not thinking past her next game. Veterans know better.
DUST OFF THE CLEATS
Softball isn’t the only game in town for men’s, women’s and coed leagues. Other organized sports include senior tennis (contact James Finley, 439-6202), roller hockey (Larry Tanenbaum, 503-5593), horseshoes (9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; Tom Martone, 447-3559) and racquetball/handball (Wednesdays and Sundays, at Wadsworth Park).
Palm Coast also started its first 18-and-up basketball league on June 28.
Signups are currently available for the second-annual Palm Coast City Championship golf tournament, as well, scheduled for Aug. 27 and Aug. 28. The 36-hole tournament at Palm Harbor Golf Club is open to all men, women and juniors. To register, call 986-4653.
*To create a league for another sport sport, go to www.SunBiz.com to register as a nonprofit. Create written bylaws, pay dues (about $250, not including insurance) and submit the documentation to the county, which will organize field times.