56-year-old Montco college freshman fulfilling dream playing baseball for the school's team
BLUE BELL, Pa. - Sometimes people have a dream and that’s all it will ever be. But, one man is playing college baseball at 56-years-old.
Mind over matter is the best explanation for Jim Fullen anyone can ask for. The retired postal worker and Army veteran was taking batting practice Friday afternoon. He’s a freshman right-fielder for the Montgomery County Community College Mustangs.
And, he’s 56-years-old.
"I played as a kid, in my upper 20s and in my upper 30s and then I got out of it. But, every time I see the kids play, I would get back into it. Now, I see the grandkids play. Like I said, before I don’t want to be a spectator, I’d rather be a player," Fullen explained.
A dad before he graduated high school, baseball took a backseat to work, for Jim. But, retired with the dream still burning, he approached MCCC manager Mike Fitzgerald with the notion of playing. Coach said he was welcome to try out.
"First week he was here, he didn’t make contact with the ball at the plate. Just swung and missed, swung and missed," Coach Fitzgerald said. "Gradually, he got better. No wasn’t an answer to him. Quitting wasn’t an answer to him. He just came every day and worked hard and actually was a role model to the younger guys."
Jim says it’s the other way around – the young guys teach him more, both in baseball, but also as a liberal studies major. A lot of teammates are classmates.
"The guys on the team, we don’t just talk baseball. We talk statistics and studying in homework and papers and it all intertwines, so it’s kind of leveled off as a 50-50," Fullen remarked.
It’s a fluid situation, as Montgomery County Community College is currently 25th in the country at their level. Talented young guys looking to make their way up to bigger four-year programs, teamed with a guy who’s had a heart attack, a torn rotator cuff and any number of pulled hamstrings. Jim’s often the first guy in the training room.
"It’s much different. He definitely needs to make sure he’s taking care of his body, so he comes in. He eats, he stretches. He takes care of his body, makes sure that any ailments he has are taken care of," Coach Fitzgerald added.
Jim says the same thing his manager does – baseball, like life, is a mind game. A person can play as long as they want, at nearly anything, until the head says they can’t anymore. That’s a choice.
But, on baseball, Jim feels he is just now getting back into fighting shape. He likes the progress he’s made so far this year and he says, beyond any question, he will be back next year for his second season. He’ll be 57 and his goal is to start right field.
Don’t bet against him.