Joe Flores was excited to get the opportunity to play baseball again.
But he didn’t have to wait long to find out it wasn’t the same.
“I caught so many ground balls,” Flores said, “that my arm hurt for four days.”
Flores, 74, had good reason to be sore, considering he was playing baseball for the first time in 50 years.
But Flores still performed well enough to help the San Antonio Broncos finish second in the 73-year-old age division of the Men’s Senior Baseball League tournament held in Arizona in October.
“It turned out to be a great tournament,” Flores said. “It was a great experience to do this baseball deal.”
Flores played baseball growing up for the McFaddin Ranch team, he was on the varsity for three seasons at Victoria High, and played one season at Pan American University before entering the Air Force, where he was a member of the baseball and softball teams.
Flores concentrated mostly on softball after leaving the service. He has been a starter on teams that have won 16 national or world championships and has been selected all-American or all-World 21 times.
Flores was inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Texas Hall of Fame in 2020.
The manager of the Broncos had seen Flores play softball. He first attempted to get Flores to join the Broncos, who include players from around the U.S. and Mexico, in 2019.
Flores initially turned him down before relenting last year.
“This year, they put a little bit more pressure on me,” Flores said. “I said, ‘Well, why not, let’s try it.’”
Playing baseball for the first time in five decades was not Flores’ only concern.
He also was worried about the COVID-19 pandemic. But after some thought, he decided to fly to Phoenix for the tournament.
Team rosters included 18 players, and games were played at major league spring training sites in the Phoenix area.
The tournament included a few rule changes because of the players’ ages.
Runners could not be thrown out at first base on balls hit on the ground to the outfield. Stealing second base was not allowed, although players could take as large of a lead as they desired.
Flores started at shortstop and went 5 for 6 with two doubles in one game.
“You’re used to playing softball and the throw is not that hard,” he said. “But then you’re playing baseball and I had to bounce a couple of balls to first base. I had to play on the edge of grass, get the ball on one bounce to first base.”
The Broncos compiled a 7-1 record and lost in the championship game before Flores flew home.
Flores won’t rule out playing in the 75-year-old division at this year’s tournament, but would alter his travel plans.
“I would consider it,” he said. “Hopefully, they have this virus under control by October. But I will be driving. I don’t think I’ll take another chance at flying.”