The Aces last won the Norwalk Recreation and Parks softball championship in 1995. Current manager Tom Cossuto said that if Johnny Burke hadn't kept the team together, that title might have been the team's last.
"It all goes back to him,'' Cossuto said after The Aces defeated East Coast Irrigation, 14-1, in Friday's championship game. "Without him we might not have a team now."
The Aces, the only Norwalk team without a title sponsor, have been around for nearly four decades. Cossuto's father, Tom Sr., played before handing the reins over to his son. As the team's veterans started to retire in the late 1990s, interest waned. Burke, a longtime player, wouldn't let them fade into softball oblivion.
"We had a lot of sons of older Aces playing but not enough to field a full team,'' Cossuto said. "Some of the older guys stuck around and played, but we needed a few years together to add quality guys to the mix. And without Johnny keeping that core together for a few years, this might not have been possible today."
The Aces returned to the league's upper echelon in the past three years, when the current core many former high school standouts in Norwalk came together. This year's team advanced to the Amateur Softball Association Class D Eastern Tournament and finished 25th. It was the first ASA Eastern appearance in nearly 20 years.
The Aces' history was on display throughout the playoffs. Some of the team's retired players came out to watch. "They come down to support us, and they kind of live vicariously through us,'' Cossuto said. His father was among them.
The Aces knocked out Marinello's Pizzeria as the league champion. Marinello's had won 13 straight city titles. The Aces rolled through the tournament and never played them. "Usually it works out that to be the best you have to beat the best,'' Cossuto said. "It would've been nice to be able to play them."
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