Defying the odds

By. Bryan M. Acosta Lugo

Carmen, a 73 year old pitcher.

For many of us, a sport should be played by youngsters or adults under certain age but this just is a stereotype. A stereotype this woman is willing to break.

Carmen Luisa Rodríguez Álvarez, better known as “Tata”, was born in Mayagüez on October 24, 1941.  As she grew up she began to feel the love for sports, a love that made her play volleyball and, to this age, she still plays softball for the Pumas team. All her life she has been surrounded by sports but she has also had important jobs in some government agencies, such as the Treasury Department of Puerto Rico, or “Hacienda”. She has been “retired” for 19 years but still manages to help on the Mayagüez Town Hall.

“Sports are a natural medicine to human health,” said Carmen with bright, shiny eyes and a big smile. “You could find her in any court or park near Mayagüez, sports are for her what the movies are for me,” said her sister Sonia, who weekly attends “El Cine” located in Mayagüez Town Center to see a new movie.

Sonia is not lying when she says that, Tata attends baseball, basketball and volleyball games without caring what gender or how good or bad the team is, she is a real fan. In every court or park, Tata is greeted by many people but she has a particular fan club at the Mayagüez Indias’s volleyball games where she is widely known for dancing the song “Caballito de palo”. Even Mayagüez’s Major José Guillermo “Guillito” Rodríguez gave her a stick horse.

Carmen dancing "Caballito de palo" at Palacio de Recreación y Deportes de Mayagüez during a timeout at a volleyball game.

Carmen dancing “Caballito de palo” at Palacio de Recreación y Deportes de Mayagüez during a timeout at a volleyball game.

Carmen also says she felt a little of discrimination and little support from her family and friends. “They would tell me to quit, that sports where a male thing. I simply ignored them, I liked what I was doing,” she said, while Sonia laughed and said, “you always did what you wanted, there you denoted how you were raised by grandma in the rural zone of San Germán”.

At 73, Tata, who says her nickname is the sweetest thing ever because it is most babies first word, plays softball for The Pumas team. Her age has limited her to play as pitcher but a few years ago, she used to play first base. “I cannot quit softball because it is my way of exercising my body, it is my medicine,” said the pitcher who earn a record of 4-0 on regular season but on the final series lose the only game she pitched earing 7 clean runs in 4 innings.

Tata with her uniform before a game in Guánica.

Tata with her uniform before a game in Guánica.

Outside the court or park, Carmen’s favorite job was working as collector of internal revenue on the Treasury Department of Puerto Rico. There she socialized and had the opportunity to help other people. “She has always had a good heart and always has been in the available to help others,” said Sonia. Tata also mentioned she passed her most terrifying moment at work also working for the Treasury Department but this time as Regional Director of the Mayagüez area. One day she was called to attend an emergency at Maricao and during the trip to Maricao heavy rains provoked rock sliding and she almost could not make it back home.

She happily retired 19 years ago but always managed to help the Mayagüez Town Hall, a place she visits at least 2 times a week looking to help. The town hall employees treat her as if she was still working there. “Sports help my body as helping there helps my mind stay awake,” she said while laughing. Although she is not receiving any payment, except for the money to pay, she is in charge of paying the water and electricity bill from the committee of the People Democratic Party.

As we spoke, Tata realized she did not imagine herself doing many of this stuff. She saw herself in sports, not playing at her current age, but somehow related to them. But such jobs were not imaginable when she was growing up.

Thanks to all of her different jobs as a social worker and her attendance too many sports events, Tata has created an extended social network. A network that she advises and tries to get some words in their mind such as “age is not a limit; if you exercise all your life, your body will respond for many more years than usual.”

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