NORWALK, Conn. – The Aces and Wildcats have been friends and rivals in the Norwalk Recreation Friday Night League for five years. This weekend, the softball teams will take their rivalry, and their friendship, to Columbus, Ohio for the Amateur Softball Association Class D national championships.
Both teams have qualified for the national tournament for three straight years. The Aces elected not to participate last year. The Wildcats have finished 13th at nationals the last two years, while the Aces finished 25th in their only national appearance.
More important than softball, however, is the camaraderie the teams share. Many of the players are in their late 20s and early 30s, and have been playing with and against each in Norwalk most of their lives.
“We hang out the whole time together and enjoy the night life together,’’ said Donnie Smith, who runs the Wildcats. “It’s nice to have somebody you know out there with you.”
The friendship carries over to the games. Players from both teams attend each other’s games if the schedules don’t conflict. “It’s really like 25 friends going down there to hang out together,’’ said Tom Cossuto, who runs the aces. “These are guys we’ve been playing with since Little League. It definitely makes for a better experience.”
The teams have been among the leaders in the Friday Night League for the past few years, and their own games can get intense. “It’s always been a friendly rivalry,’’ Smith said. “Usually we don’t get too mad at one another. If we do, it’s usually started by an umpire’s call. But we get over it pretty quickly.”
Smith played baseball at Brien McMahon High School, and Cossuto played at Norwalk High School. They each have brothers who play on their teams. Last year, Smith’s Wildcats even picked up a few members of the Aces to play for them at the nationals. It’s not inconceivable that the teams might even end up playing each other in the tournament.
“If that happens, it’d be like any other game that we play against them,’’ Cossuto said. “It’d be an instant classic. They always are. It’d be a good game, but that’s not really something we want to have at nationals.”