Softball on the ‘Frozen Tundra’

WILKES-BARRE -- While many people didn't dare venture out into the cold on this New Year's Day, a few men in Wilkes-Barre were outside competing, playing a game that they love.

When you think of a sport played in brutally cold temperatures and with snow on the ground in January, football probably comes to mind. But for one group of guys, regardless of the weather, they've been playing softball on New Year's Day at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre since the '80s.

"It's been going on for 30 years, good camaraderie. The guys get the cobwebs out of their head in the cold. I just enjoy laughing at the guys when they're diving for the balls in the snow and missing the ball in the sun first thing in the morning," said Raymond Williamson of Edwardsville.

"It's something that we've done for tradition. It started way back in the day, and when we were younger, we used to play in this and stuff like that, so now, you just play," said Pete Corby of Mountain Top.

They certainly do it up right, too, with fresh kielbasa on the grill and a fire burning in the dugout. They say the camaraderie is part of the reason the tradition lives on.

"A lot of us grew up together in high school. After college, we kind of got back together and started playing ball once our competitive careers were over. It's just fun to compete with guys you know, against them and with them," said Steve Mytych of Exeter.

The temperature at game time was only 12 degrees. The players admit that playing in the cold and snow is just a little bit crazy.

"I think so, slightly," said Joe Ziomek of Pittston.

"Yes, they're crazy, even in the summer," agreed Williamson.

"We're absolutely nuts. If you play slow pitch softball, you're usually a little crazy anyway, so it's all good," said Mytych.

"It's the polar bear. It's like the same thing they do when they go swimming. They jump in the water, doesn't matter what the temperature is, you just play," Corby added.

And in 2019, the players say they'll be back on the field playing again to ring in the new year.