CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Outside of high school and college, did you know the coastal bend has many state and national athletic champions?
Twice a week at First Baptist Corpus Christi, you can find just men and women from age 50 to 90, playing some pick up basketball. Don't let their age fool you they're real competitors.
"The real success is walking off the floor after you’re done. We call that a win,” 71-year-old Jeff Longino said.
At first many of these seniors take the court to remain active. Many have been playing since they were children and now they take the phrase, “for the love of the game” to a new level.
“It’s a good way to stay active and I enjoy the game," said Wayne Greathouse. "And usually, pretty good bunch of guys to play with so, no reason to stop.”
Greathouse, who turns 87 on Wednesday, is the oldest one on the court on Tuesday.
Greathouse plays for a senior team called the LARKS, standing for Louisiana-Arkansas. Players of the team first originated from there, but players from all over began to join.
Guys like Floro Ramos also continue to play, even after suffering a heart attack in 2011. Ramos said he actually died for a full minute and was revived. Through playing basketball he feels better than ever.
“I have a stint in my heart, right now," said Ramos. "And, I don’t get tired. I was wondering maybe the exercise helps me.”
As for why he continues to play:
"It makes me feel young again. I could run around like a 21 year old," Ramos laughed.
Steve Coronado Sr. is another gentlemen that continues to play at the age of 83. He's been playing senior league basketball for almost 30 years.
"I love the game an dI like to stay physically fit, it's a health thing, for me," he said. The camaraderie, the fun, it's the love of the game.
After about a 30 minute game of pick up basketball, these men hardly looked winded.
That's because they regularly compete for state and national titles at the Senior Games and various leagues in different age groups.
“We got third place which we were real happy with,” Greathouse said speaking about 80 and up team.
“We just came back from the Master’s World Games in St. George, Utah," Longino said. "It's about an hour and a half, two hours north of Las Vegas. They've been running the senior games there for quite some time. It’s a three on three tournament and we took third in the nation."
Longino plays with the Texas Old Stars in the 70 and up division.
Ramos didn't get to compete in the national tournament, but he did have the gold medal to show his team was the champion of Texas Senior Games back in March.
What drives them is fitness, competition and friendship.
“I’m a believer in God, I a believe in friendship, these guys are great. We just have a great camaraderie,” Coronado said.
"I think the best thing is the camaraderie, The people that you're meeting," Longino said. There's a lot of terrific people that we meet at these tournaments and it becomes a reunion."
These basketball players know their physical activity is helping them and hope others will recognize the benefits.
“I think more people should be doing it," said Greathouse. "When I started playing here at First Baptist, it was a bunch of 70’s guys. It wasn’t uncommon to have 15 guys. There’s no one left, my age, playing here now.
"it's very important I'm standing up, thank God," Coronado said. "Enjoy life. I believe you only have one life and I'm going to live it the best that I can."
"One of the guys I played with in St. George, I told him I'm fortunate I'm running on all original equipment," Longino said joking. "And he said, well I have everything replaced.
Staying active became more important for Longino after the pandemic began. He and his wife contracted Covid-19 and he was in the hospital for a week.
"We started walking afterwards and then extended the walks," he said. "Finally I started playing ball again and then went from three on three half court to full court."
All these men say they have no plans of slowing down. The next tournament will be the Texas Senior Games in San Antonio come spring. They all aren't sure if they're competing, but know they'll compete again soon.
"To be able to compete at this level, still at our age, is a tremendous feat as far as I'm concerned," said Longino. "I tell the guys that re older than me that they're my heroes. These 80 year old guys, they're my heroes because that's where I want to be in nine years. I want to still be going."