The Republican
Chance to be a boy of summer, even after 30
Sunday, October 07, 2007

Jim Nason was cut from his junior varsity high school baseball team.  
The following year, the pitcher/second baseman didn't make varsity for the former Classical High
School either.
The sting of those disappointments is still felt.
He is just being honest. He lived for baseball then.
As much as those disappointments hurt, they didn't diminish Jim Nason's love of baseball.
He grew up an only child of older parents. He fell in love with baseball all by himself. Boston's Carl
Yastrzemski, another Polish-American, was his favorite player.
Jim's neighborhood was East Springfield, teeming with children around his age. Marshall Roy Field was
within walking distance.
He played sandlot baseball even after he earned his driver's license.
Upon graduating from Classical in 1976, Jim attended the University of Lowell (now UMass/Lowell). He
considered a career in medicine, but opted for engineering, plastics engineering to be more specific.
He worked for Bic on shavers and Spalding with golf balls. Presently he works at Cuno Inc., a 3M
company, in Enfield.
Jim played a lot of softball until deep into his 30s. But softball isn't baseball.
A teammate, Fred Porth, mentioned an over-30 baseball league.
It sounded to Jim Nason like an answer to a prayer he never actually gave words to.
Jim, a guy of average height and weight, mostly blond hair and a hint of a gut, played nine years in the
Quabbin Valley Over-30 League, pitching, playing second base and doing a little managing, too.
The league founder, Cliff McCarthy of Belchertown and also Jim's teammate, told him: "Work fast,
throw strikes, change speeds."
The advice served Jim well.
"I'm 49," he says. "I still throw my fastball and curve."
He's never kept his own stats, but thinks he is about a lifetime .270 hitter.      
Two years ago, Jim founded his own over-30 league, the Valley Wheel.
"The Quabbin League was migrating north, past Northampton," he says. "And a lot of guys wanted to
play games late on Sunday afternoons, instead of the middle of the day."
The Valley Wheel started with four teams, now it has six.
Jim is trying to grow the league through a fall ball program.
"It is the perfect opportunity for someone who would like to join the league to check it out," he says.
"Baseball can be intimidating if you haven't played for 20 to 30 years, but it is the same game."
Jim says all are welcome, regardless of experience or ability.
"Everybody plays," he notes.
Games will be held the next two Sundays at West Springfield's Mitteneague Park. On the 14th, the game
is from 10 a.m. to 1. On the 21st, 2 to 5 p.m.
No uniforms are required. Games are nine innings. An umpire will be hired.
"For $7 you can take a swing at the real deal," Jim says. "It will give you a new appreciation when
watching the playoffs this year."
About 25 "rookies" have showed up the last couple of weeks.
Including one man who was walking his kids through the park and decided to play. He hit two weak
grounders his first at bats, then drilled a triple.
"He's hooked," Jim says. "When you hit it that far and are rounding second, heading for third, you are
hooked."
During the regular season, Jim had two milestones: He pitched his first nine-inning complete game; he
also had his first walk-off, game-winning hit.
"A little bloop over the second baseman's head," he notes. "It counted."    
From spring to the end of summer, the league plays through the Valley.
For information, call (413) 433-4308 or go to Web site www.valleywheelbaseball.com
"We play by the good grace of our host cities and towns who allow us to use their fields and make this
league possible: Springfield, Agawam, Enfield, West Springfield," Jim says. "The league was created to
allow baseball players an opportunity to continue playing the game they loved as kids and to give a
second chance."
Jim estimates he works at least a couple of hours every day on the league, player recruitment taking up
most of his time.
In his spare time, he still plays softball in the fast pitch Solutia League; he also plays pool, gardens, and
has an understanding girlfriend.
"I don't know if baseball season ever ends," Jim says. "Because the day after the last game - I know I'm
not alone at this - you start thinking about the next year."
Tom Shea can be reached at tshea@repub.com


©2007 The Republican
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Chance To Be A Boy Of Summer
Valley Wheel   
BASEBALL