If you consider yourself an athlete, your career on the field or on the court begins at a young age. Throughout the years, you improve your skills, but eventually the time comes to hang up the cleats or sneakers because as we all know, time waits for no one.
However, two Dover residents, Chester Scott Jr. and Paul Fleming, are bucking that trend. Both Scott and Fleming have nearly 80 combined years of softball experience, and they're still going strong each and every summer in the Dover Softball League.
Like many softball players, both Scott and Fleming started their athletic careers playing other sports, and as they grew older their competitive spirits drew them to softball.
"I started playing baseball when I was 8 years old, minor league and little league," said Scott, Catcher for Ralph's Appliance/Loockerman Tree and Stump Removal. "I used to play in the black Negro league on Sunday's when they organized. I came down and saw them playing in Dover Park on a Sunday night and I said I got to get over there and play and my cousin got me on a team back in 1974 and I've been here ever since."
Paul Fleming's journey to Dover started in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio where he began his baseball career playing little league. Fleming would go through nearly every level of competitive ball, from high school, to college, to semi-pro ball before landing in Dover.
"I started playing little league when I was 7 or 8 and played in high school and played at University of Cincinnati. After I graduated I played some semi-pro ball in the tri-state league, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, playing for the Hamilton County Cardinals," said Fleming, starting pitcher for Vincenzo's. "I moved and took a job at University of North Carolina at Charlotte coaching wrestling and teaching. Some of the guys on the wrestling team played rec-league softball, and we didn't have a baseball team that I was aware of, so I started playing softball in Charlotte from 1967-1970. Moved to Virginia and played one year of fast-pitch softball and went 0-for-June, I couldn't hit it. I moved to Dover, where I was the vice principal at the Dover Air Force Base High School, then I started playing in the Dover rec league and 40 years later I'm still here."
After years of competitive sports, wear and tear on the body is going to happen. And both Scott and Fleming have had their fair share of injuries. Whether it's a torn achilles, torn rotator cuff, or broken bones, both Scott and Fleming have experience them all.
"I've had a torn achilles, ruptured calf, two torn rotator cuffs, broken thumb," said Scott. "And my eyes are going bad so I had to come in and catch."
"Over the years I've had some wear and tear on the body I have a pace-maker, and my shoulder is shot," said Fleming. "There is no ball on the end of the bone. So, I can't throw overhand, so if I didn't pitch I would have been finished say 5 or 6 years ago."
With past injuries and age now a factor for both, keeping fit is extremely important. Both Scott and Fleming have become gym rats, training year-round to keep themselves in tip-top shape to compete once summer comes.
While both Scott and Fleming have been competing in the Dover Softball League for many years, their paths have crossed quite often. They've played with one another and against each other countless times, including a stint as teammates on a team that won the Richmond Round-Robin tournament which is considered the world's largest softball tournament.
Over the years, both have earned enormous respect from all of their teammates, past and present. They've both shown a commitment to being able to play their best, and the feeling they get stepping on the softball field is what keeps them coming back.
"It's the thrill of the game, that anticipation is still there," said Scott. "I feel it all day long, I have butterflies right now just talking about it, and I still love the feeling."
"I like to play competitive softball and if that means I have to play with younger guys that's the way it is," said Fleming. "They have senior league in Smyrna and I haven't graduated to that yet, but I'm thinking about it."
As of right now, both players still have the desire to lace up their cleats and put on their uniforms each summer. However, both know that one day they'll have to hang up their spikes for good, but that time hasn't come quite yet.
"As long as I don't hurt the team or hurt myself, I'm playing ball," said Scott.
"There will be a point in time, like retiring, you work and work and work, and you know when it's time," said Fleming. "It's the same thing here, when I start waking up in the morning and I'm praying for rain, I'll know it's time."