In the week of October 23-26, while students and teachers routinely attended school, CHS psychology teacher David Aiello became a world champion. To accomplish this feat, Aiello joined 17 of his teammates to compete in the Men’s Senior Baseball League 55+ National Division World Series in Phoenix, Arizona.
For a lifelong baseball player such as Aiello, the opportunity to play in the Senior Men’s World Series came after years of practice.
“I started with a Clayton parent whose son I coached probably 25 years ago, and when he found out that I was a baseball player, he asked me if I wanted to play on his team, and so I started doing that and I’ve been playing basically with that team for the better part of the last 25 year,” Aiello said.
Soon, Aiello was asked to go to Arizona with the team.
“Obviously, the players like myself have aged through the years, and we’ve gone from the over-25 league to the over-35 league, but every year for the past 3 or 4 years, there were a couple of guys who asked if I would be able to go to Arizona with them for what they called the World Series,” Aiello said. “Whenever they would tell me the dates, it would always be a time where it wouldn’t work out, most significantly it was always right around when we had parent-teacher conferences, so I couldn’t miss that. This year, when they happened to ask it was the week after parent-teacher conferences, and I said yes.”
In Phoenix, Aiello had the unique opportunity to play where many major league baseball teams participate in their spring training, and where many minor league teams play throughout the summer months.
“They’ve got these huge complexes that have a stadium field where they actually play their games, but then around the stadium, they have anywhere from 6-8 more practice fields. We were able to play on all these different complexes, so we played one game at the Chicago Cubs complex, 2 games at the Cleveland Indians complex, one game at the Cincinnati Reds complex, and 2 games at the Oakland A’s complex,” Aiello said.
With this opportunity, also came playing 7 hours a day in 95-100 degree heat.
“I tried to get myself into a little better shape in the weeks leading up to it, but nothing can prepare you for that. We’re constantly drinking as much water and Gatorade as you can,” Aiello said.
In fact, the night before the championship game, Aiello started getting Charley Horses in his legs.
“I would wake up, and I was trying not to wake my roommate to let him at least sleep, but I was sort of screaming under my breath and I was trying to get them not to hurt as much as possible,” Aiello said.
Nonetheless, Aiello served as a major contributor to the team. Gary Siegel, Aiello’s teammate, describes Aiello’s leadership on and off the field.
“I played against Dave for years,” Siegel said. “However, 2 years ago, we started to play on the same team. I always knew he was a great player, but quickly learned that he was a great teammate. He is a quiet leader who always conducts himself with dignity on the baseball field. While many players are demonstrative after getting a bad call from the umpire, Dave never argues with the ump. He always is a positive influence in the dugout and encourages players who, like me, may make an error or two.”
With his leadership and positive attitude, Aiello was willing to play any position that was needed in order for the team to win.
“Dave is the type of player who would be within his rights to tell his manager that he will play only shortstop or pitcher or catcher,” Siegel said. “He is one of those players who is gifted enough to play any of those positions at an elite level. However, Dave has no ego at all and, on our championship team, was asked to play second base. He played almost every inning in the field and solidified our infield with his stellar play.”
As a result, the team dominated the tournament and won their third championship over the last 22 years.
“Because we won, we get to have some bling, so we had to go back to another one of the stadiums where they had sort of home base, and we all got fitted for rings, and we got to pick out what the inscriptions are and all that kind of stuff,” Aiello said. “So, we’re going to get those delivered in December, and we got a t-shirt that says ‘champions’ and all that other kind of cool stuff. It was so much fun, it was so tiring.”
Although the team took home the winning championship, Aiello debates whether to do it next year due to the cost of the trip and the time it requires him to take away from teaching.
“It’s kind of difficult right now because we do have two kids in college and the entire trip was probably around 16 or 17 hundred dollars, which is a little less money that our kids would have to take out in loans if I didn’t do it,” Aiello said. “So, we have to figure all that kind of stuff like that.”
Ultimately, however, Aiello is proud that he went on the trip and does not regret making the sacrifices to attend. As a teacher, father, and husband, Aiello dedicates the majority of his time to helping others.
“This was something that I did for me,” Aiello said. “It was really kind of cool after all these years of doing all these things for other folks to feel like this is just for me, this is just fun for me. Just to be sort of a kid again, and have all that sort of fun that I can remember now what it was like back in college and high school playing with a team. I really do feel like, as an adult, you lose some of that stuff that you used to do as a kid. As people get older and life starts to take up more of your time, sometimes we forget to do this kind of stuff, so this was just kind of a cool experience for me.”