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Retired veteran still slugging at 80 and playing softball almost every day

Retired veteran still slugging at 80 and playing softball almost every day
Former Naval Senior Chief Petty Officer Pat Murphy, 80, has competed in 13 Huntsman World Senior Games as a softball player. (Courtesy: The Murphy family)

THE VILLAGES, Fla. (BVM) — Patrick Murphy is not your typical octogenarian. At 80 years old, he spent three-and-a-half decades sailing the seven seas as a decorated Naval Senior Chief Petty Officer. He raised three kids with successful careers of their own. And, as an athlete who still plays softball almost every day, he’s got 13 trips to the international Huntsman World Senior Games under his belt — and multiple gold medals to prove it.

Upon retirement, Pat and his wife, Jan, moved to Longboat Key, Fla. — a barrier island off the coast of Sarasota — to manage a small beachfront resort. After a career repeatedly deployed out to sea, suddenly the Murphys found themselves living and now working together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call it survival or an effort to keep his sanity, but Pat, then age 56, knew he needed an outlet.

Sarasota is a hub for active retirees. Men’s senior softball leagues abound. And so, he joined up and geared up – with complete uniform, full equipment, specialized bats – the whole nine yards. A relative newcomer to the area, he excelled almost immediately. At a mere 5-foot-6 and weighing in at 150 pounds, Pat was agile and athletic, and he could run. Soon, other teams came calling. At one point, he was a starter — and a star — on four different teams. His time away from the resort was filled with traveling teams and ball tournaments.

But after 12 years of island living, the Murphys retired from their resort management jobs and moved three hours north to The Villages. The largest 55-plus retirement community in the country, The Villages has a senior population of almost 125,000.

Pat was the new kid on the block once again. But word soon spread north about his skills on the diamond and he became a hot commodity. In The Villages, men’s softball reigns. Thousands participate in dozens of leagues on a few hundred teams.

Most of the leagues are age-based, and each new player’s skills must first be evaluated in an extensive process. In some cases, you don’t just join a team — you get drafted. Draft day is a big deal, highly anticipated for months in advance. And it was in this softball mecca that Pat became a shining star. At his peak, he was playing softball seven days a week.

Many athletes dream of competing in the Olympics. For seniors, including Pat Murphy, the ultimate stage is a trip to the coveted international Huntsman World Senior Games, held annually in St. George, Utah. It’s the Olympics of senior sports and Pat has participated in 13 World Senior Games competing with teams from across the globe. Nearly 50 countries are represented. And Pat has quite a lot to show from those trips: five gold medals, one silver and four bronze.

At the height of his glory in 2012, Pat had emergency open-heart surgery. Quadruple bypass. He was supposed to be out of commission for six months. Fortunately, it was during the summer, when many in The Villages become snowbirds and head north to escape the heat and go back from where they came. Softball slows down and, as a softball star in the sport’s mecca, if one has to have emergency open heart surgery, the off-season is probably the best time to do it.

Not wanting to let his team down with a trip to the World Senior Games on the line, Pat recuperated well ahead of schedule. Those World Senior Games can be quite motivating and, four months after he was under the knife, Pat was headed once again to St. George, Utah in search of those coveted medals.

“The key to staying young is to stay active, stay active, stay active,” Pat said. “Staying active is good for your health. We are all so fortunate to still be playing, and I never dreamed I’d be playing softball into my 80s. We are so fortunate and so blessed.”

Now eight years after his open-heart surgery, this softball star is still going strong. Still at a fit and trim 150 pounds and approaching 81 years old, Pat says he’s starting to slack. His softball playing has scaled back to almost every day.

After 13 trips to the Huntsman World Senior Games and several medals under his belt, Pat Murphy’s medal-winning days may have peaked, but he still sees several more seasons of softball in his future.

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