Games are a big reunion for old softball mates

While they’re a competitive bunch, the Otago Community Trust New Zealand Masters Games is really just a big reunion for the Park Barons United softball team.
‘‘The experience of catching up with mates is what it’s all about,’’ team member Andrew Melville says.
Many in the team played softball together in Dunedin as kids, and competed at provincial level with players now in other masters teams.
The 2022 Otago Community Trust New Zealand Masters Games will be held in Dunedin from February 5-13.
The Games are the largest multi-sport event held in the country, and annually alternate between Dunedin and Whanganui. Dunedin will host more than 5000 participants in over 60 sporting codes over the nine days of competition.
The age at which an athlete becomes a Master differs depending on the sport, with participants ranging from 18 to 95 and beyond, so there are opportunities for everyone.
The Park Barons United team first participated in the Dunedin games in 2012. They won the gold medal on that occasion - one of many highlights for the team over the last decade.
‘‘We’ve lost a couple of finals and we’ve won a couple of finals,’’ Andrew says. ‘‘We won up at Whanganui last year, which was quite cool - it was the first time we’ve travelled away.’’
They’re now looking forward to playing the Whanganui teams making the trip south next year. There will nine teams from around the country competing at the games in Dunedin.
‘‘There are usually one or two really good teams, and then the rest you’ve got to keep an eye on,’’ Andrew says. ‘‘And the last couple of years it’s been building. There’ll be some really good competitive softball played.’’
Although Park Barons United has been training in preparation for the games, he notes that they generally realise pretty quickly that they’re not as fit as they once were. Competing over four days is not easy.
But with team members now scattered around New Zealand and even further afield, getting together is what it’s really all about.
‘‘We all get together and remember old times and catch up with old mates,’’ Andrew says. ‘‘That’s really good for the mental health. And then you go down to the games village and catch up with other people who you knew from school or whatever.’’
At a new venue for softball at Bathgate Park with a bar to socialise in, Park Barons United are really looking forward to the 2022 Otago Community Trust New Zealand Masters Games.

❏ Otago Community Trust New Zealand Masters Games: Dunedin, February 5-13, 2022.