By Tom Price Jr.
Ray Cartagena is 35 years old yet he feels like he is playing Little League. Except for the 90 mph fastballs and knee buckling sliders.
Five years ago, the former Lindsay Cardinal baseball player was thumbing through a newspaper when he saw an ad that read 'baseball players wanted.' Having played three years of varsity at LHS and at the COS and Masters college he most certainly fit the description of baseball player.
Tired of playing slow pitch softball, the former shortstop and pitcher made the call and has been playing in a league in Fresno called the Men's Adult Baseball League ever since.
The 18-and-over league is filled with all ages and experience levels, from former minor leagues to guys who played in high school.
"I am having a blast, it is a lot of fun," Cartagena said. "I am going to play until I can't anymore."
Cartagena recently made a trip to Phoenix with a team comprised mostly of players from his team and others in the MABL/MSBL where they competed in the MSBL Championship tournament. Teams from across the nation and other countries play baseball for seven days on four fields in Arizona for the chance to be crowned champion.
Cartagena's team, the Fresno Dulcich Tribe, recently played their way to the championship and squeaked out a victory against the Peoria Pirates.
The Tribe jumped out to a 4-0 lead but couldn't hold off the Pirates, who fought back and evened the score at five, headed into the eighth inning.
With Cartagena leading the way the Tribe scored three in their half of the eighth and held off the Pirates for an 8-5 victory.
Cartagena went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI and came home with the games MVP trophy.
"It's nine games in seven days. It is a tough trip," Cartagena said. "The guy [pitcher] we beat in the championship was an ex-major leaguer, we were just able to fight."
Unfortunately meeting his responsibilities as a teacher at Pinkham Elementary School in Visalia may mean the end of his tournament days in Phoenix, which makes this year's win even more sweet. If that wasn't enough, he also hit his first tournament home run, a shot that cleared the 390 ft. mark.
"I told myself this would be my last year. I would like to keep playing but I just don't like the stress." Cartagena said. "It just felt right this year. If felt like business. We used to celebrate after every win. This year we were on a mission."
The Tribe accomplished their mission and Cartagena has his championship ring and like many athletes, he knows the temptation to come back next year may be too much.
"Playing these games is just as important as it was in Little League, "Cartagena said. "You become real passionate about it."