Doug Axelson’s been playing ball his whole life. Now, at age 64, he’s hanging up his glove and leaving the game.
It’s kind of hard to believe. Talking to his teammates on the Rafanelli Law slow-pitch softball team, everyone says the same thing: Doug is the best pitcher in the league, even the best pitcher they’ve ever played with.
“I’ve played softball for about 25 years and Doug is the single best pitcher I’ve ever played with,” said Harris Atkins during Tuesday night’s playoff game. “He’s automatic to the plate. His instincts are that of a 20-year-old. When the ball comes back to the mound, his instincts are superb.”
“The way he makes the ball dance is downright filthy, and his crazy assortment of knucklers induces many muscle-bound 20-somethings to hit dinky little grounders and pop-ups,” said David Osborne, another team member.
Axelson is perhaps better known to many in town as a EG Fire District Commissioner for several years (he left the board in 2012), but baseball is Axelson’s true passion and has been since, as teammate Gregg Davies put it, "he was chasing fireflies in his backyard in Maine."
Axelson knows it’s not typical to find someone playing ball into their 60s.
“I stopped playing senior men’s hardball when I was 54 and I moved down here [from Maine],” he said. “I looked around to get on another team and I couldn’t find a team, so I stopped playing.”
Then, his wife met a woman through New Neighbors whose husband was putting together a softball team.
“She called me about five times and I kept saying, ‘I’m too old, I’m too old.’” Eventually, though, Axelson agreed.
“She had to take particulars – where I lived, my full name … and then she asked for my birth date and I said 4-24-49 and the phone went dead. I know she was still on the phone but I could just hear her mind … because her husband was like 30. Finally, she says, ‘OK, well, they’re going to have a practice Sunday.' I’ve been their pitcher ever since.”
“For my age, I’m not bad,” said Axelson. His teammates might argue with that.
“He’s a phenom, an absolute phenom,” said John Sullivan. “If you watch some of the plays, some of the other guys back up. He stays right there. They blast it at him and he always seems to make a play. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
It’s not just the play on the field.
“He’s a great player, a great guy,” said Sullivan.
The team plays at Eldredge Field a couple nights a week through the summer (the league runs three games there a night, Monday through Thursday).
They in the playoffs now and the whole team is focused on winning it all this year.
“All of us on Rafanelli Law would give our right arm to see Doug go out top with a richly-deserved championship,” said Osborne. “We came stinking close last year, and we're on a mission to get the job done this season!”
Their next playoff game is Monday, Aug. 19, at 7:45 p.m.