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Mike Gentle is reliving his past through play in the Madison Adult Co-Ed Softball League. The City of Madison employee is seeing action on the softball diamond for the first time in 35 years. Photo Contributed

Adult Co-Ed Softball Brings Back Memories For Mike Gentle

MADISON- The past- something most elite athletes look back on and many times hang their entire lives upon in a way to remember the “good ol’ days.”

For Madison’s Mike Gentle, it’s been 35 years since he laced up his pair of cleats and picked up a bat for a game of softball or baseball. On July 13, Gentle, the maintenance crew chief for the Madison Public Works Dept., visited Academy Sports where he bought a brand new pair of Under Armour cleats and stepped onto the softball field at Palmer Park for his first attempt of playing in the Madison Adult Co-Ed Softball League.

“I looked down at my cleats and it felt great walking onto a ball field again,” said Gentle. “Automatically great memories came back to me as I feel I’m on the field on my own terms.”

The 59-year old Gentle is a former college and professional baseball player and longtime fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball participant. The native of Huntsville attended Lee High as a pitcher and first baseman and soon played for two years at North Alabama as a non-scholarship player. He had a tryout with the Los Angeles Dodgers and signed with the National League franchise where he was part of the organization from 1982-1984. He suffered broken fingers on his pitching hand during a charity flag football event in Huntsville, which ended his baseball career. “After that, I was done,” said Gentle.

He soon joined up with Huntsville Manufacturing’s fast-pitch softball team and several other travel-type slow-pitch squads where many times would play games seven nights a week. He also played two years for the former Channel 31 WAAY Superstars softball team that traveled throughout the Tennessee Valley playing squads in efforts to raise money for local communities. Gentle said those two years were ones where he loved the idea of playing softball.

In 1985, he put up his cleats and glove. “Yes, I was burned out and I had work fulltime and I soon had a son, who currently lives in Georgia,” said Gentle.

For 35 years he stayed away from the baseball/softball diamond.

In 1993 he joined the City of Madison for his fulltime work and has progressed in his career to his current position. He is a certified Emergency Manager through the American Medical Association (AMA) and works with the emergency management divisions of North Alabama.

He has had two rotator-cuff surgeries on his left arm, which happens to be his “pitching arm,” in both 2008 and 2019. He also underwent major neck surgery in 2003 where surgeons took a bone out of his hip and inserted into his neck.

Throughout his adulthood, Gentle has followed professional baseball watching games on television whenever possible. He’s always had that deep hidden desire to maybe one day return to the dusty field of softball. When the Adult Co-Ed Softball League was forming this year, he was asked by fellow Madison employees to join their team, the Recing Crew, and get back to action.

The adult league includes 14 players on each of the six team rosters and one major rule is at least three female players have to be in the field at all times. The season runs through into August.

“My first attempt on my return it was like riding a bicycle, you just don’t forget how,” said Gentle. “It felt great. My hitting timing was off, but I’ve done alright so far going seven for nine in our first three games where we are 1-2. I’m having fun, loving it. It makes me smile just being out there.”

Asked what, if anything, he’s not happy with the current game, Gentle answered, “Not being able to high-five or shake hands with our opponents after the game and the social distancing we adhere to within our own team. It’s definitely different than what I did many years ago.”

“I appreciate Madison’s Recreational Director, Kory Alfred and his wife, Marty, as they got me involved with playing this year and are great friends,” added Gentle. “I like the fact I’m playing on my own terms and not the high pressure situations I was involved in in my past. But taking the steps to return to the field brought back many great memories for me.”

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