Crowther Roofing sponsored Naples Senior Softball Team "Naples Bags"
Naples Daily News"Naples senior softball team proves you're never too old to take the extra Bag"
"When the Naples Bags senior women’s softball team players take the field, a sense of déjà vu washes over them.
“It is almost like stepping in a time machine,” player/coach Marisela Gutierrez said. “Only everything is just a bit slower. Those triples you used to leg out are now doubles. Turning that easy double play now takes a little more effort. But looking around and seeing all these ladies you’ve grown up playing with, that’s what really makes this special.”
The Bags have played together on and off for the better part of 40 years. Many were the first to come through the Naples Little League softball program in the late 1970s and early 1980s under Bill Longshore and Robert Iamurri.
The senior softball team "Bags" has competed in four statewide tournaments since October of last year. The team has reunited Naples-area softball players, some of which participated in the first-ever Naples Little League softball teams in the 1970s. Top row left to right: player/coach Kirtley Schultheis Gutierrez, player/manager Becki Daniels, Cindy Rhein, Kim Hogan, Missy Longshore Zeliff, Lynne Campasano Hancock and Marivel Gutierrez. Kneeling left to right: Dawn Santiago, Marisela Gutierrez, Lisa Rhein Calyore, Cheryl Murphy and Cindy Reynolds Phillips. Missing from this picture is Lisa Lines. The ladies range in age from 50 to 64 and have played together on and off for 30 to 40 years. (Photo: Submitted photo)
The group came together again last year to form the Bags, playing in their first senior tournament in October at the Villages and finishing third. Since then, they competed in three more tournaments, qualifying for the World Masters Championships to be held Oct. 5-6 in Las Vegas. The Bags likely won’t be able to participate this year unless they are able to quickly raise some last-minute funds, but they plan on qualifying again and going next year if they are unable to make it in October. According to team manager Becki Daniels, the total trip would cost just under $7,700.
“We played that first tournament (at the Villages), didn’t win but no one got hurt, so that was good,” Daniels joked. “But we saw right away that we could compete. And every tournament we’ve played, we’ve gotten better. These girls are back out there kicking butt again, and it’s great to see.”
The team name Bags is a play on words, turning the negative connotation of ‘Old Bag’ into a positive one, since swiping a bag or taking the extra bag have long been part of the softball and baseball lexicon. The players are mostly in their early- to mid-50s, with Daniels the oldest at 64.
“We’re always going up to each other and saying ‘Hey Bag, nice play’ or something like that,” infielder/outfielder Cheryl Murphy said. “We have a lot of fun with it. This isn’t about just a bunch of softball players who played together as kids and are now playing again. It’s about these friendships that have endured for 40 years. No matter if we saw each other yesterday or if it’s been months or years, there’s a special bond between us.”
Murphy and five other Bags – Lisa Lines, Cindy Reynolds Phillips, Cindy Rhein, Lisa Rhein Calyore and Missy Longshore Zeliff – played at Naples High in the early- to mid-1980s.
Murphy, Reynolds Phillips and Marisela Gutierrez were members of the 1982 Greater Naples Braves squad that captured the Little League Senior Division World Series championship in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Iamurri was the coach and Bill Longshore the manager of that squad.
"It felt like the entire community was behind us," Murphy said. "We had people waiting for us as we got off the plane, and a lot of people actually made the trip (to Kalamazoo) to cheer us on. It's something I'll never forget."
The 1982 Little League Senior Division national champion Greater Naples Braves squad gathers for a team photo after winning the title in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Kneeling from left to right are Delores Parker, Julie Zimmer, Caroline Seiffert, Marcia Frengel, Marisela Gutierrez and Nancy Raub. Standing from left to right are Margaret Pittman, coach Robert Iamurri, Heidi Mazeroski, Lisa Wissinger, Mary Beth Proffitt, Joy Swilley, Cheryl Murphy, manager Bill Longshore, assistant George Pittman, Marlo Mazeroski and Cindy Reynolds. (Photo: Submitted photo)
Another member of the Bags – Kirtley Schultheis Gutierrez – coached at Naples High before Iamurri started his 26-year run in 1986. Murphy played three years under Kirtley Schultheis and one under Iamurri.
“Getting the opportunity to play with our former coach is something the former Naples High players cherish,” Murphy said. “She’s meant so much to us, and even though she isn’t much older than us, we’ve always looked up to her. It’s funny, we’ll be in the dugout now and she’ll turn to us and say ‘girls, we’ve still got it going on’ and she’s right.”
Schultheis Gutierrez teams with sister-in law Marisela Gutierrez and Becki Daniels to form a triumvirate of Bags coaches. No one is really deemed the head coach, although all decisions are made as a team.
Marisela Gutierrez, a 1985 Lely graduate, coached at St. John Neumann from 1990 to 1996 before spending two more years on the Edison State College staff. She’s served the last 21 years as a corrections officer for the Collier County Sherriff’s Department. The three Bags coaches have been together on the local slow-pitch softball circuit for almost 30 years.
“Whatever team we’ve been on, there’s never been a true head coach,” Marisela Gutierrez said. “We’ve been unique that way. We all make the decisions of who plays where. The nice thing about (the Bags) is you never have to get on any of these ladies when they make a mistake. They are far harder on themselves than a coach could ever be, and that comes from being such great competitors. It’s always been that way.”
Murphy says Marisela is not only a tremendous softball player - forming a dazzling double-play combination with sister Marivel – but a true student of the game.
“She knows the game inside and out,” Murphy said. “More than the umpires, frequently. She has so much class and poise when there is a questionable call or dispute.”
Murphy said the lifelong lessons the ladies have gained through softball have served them well. Murphy is a nurse and a veteran of the Army Reserve.
“Boot camp was much easier than one of coach Iamurri’s practices,” Murphy joked.
Kirtley Gutierrez and Missy Longshore Zeliff are longtime teachers for the Collier County School District. Marivel Gutierrez, a 1987 Lely graduate, works closely with children as the recreation supervisor for the city of Gulfport. Cindy Rhein worked for the government for more than 20 years and is now retired.
“We’ve all turned out to be such confident, accomplished women,” Murphy said. “I’m proud of every one of these women and am so glad we’ve remained so close.”
Marisela Gutierrez said the guidance she received from her coaches has helped shape her into the woman she is today, saying that’s likely true for her Bags teammates."
“We look back and realize we’re the ones that really got softball going here in Naples,” she said. “We just loved to play ball and still do today. We’ve been blessed to have the coaches we’ve had, whether it be Bill Longshore, Kirtley, Robert Iamurri, Dave Walker. They all helped build softball in the area. But more importantly, they really helped us become leaders in the community. It’s not just about softball, it’s being part of a team and being held accountable. To this day, we’ve all got this special camaraderie, and that’s why we’re still successful on the field, 40 years later.”
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