By Sarah Whitman
Before Paul Wells steps onto the pitcher’s mound Friday nights, he says a short prayer. He doesn’t pray to win. He prays for a good game and for everyone to have fun.
Wells is the coach and pitcher for the North Pointe Church softball team, part of a Bay area church league batting it out this summer.
North Pointe plays at 9 p.m. Fridays at New Tampa Field 2, off Bruce B. Downs and Tampa Palms Blvd. They play churches including Exciting Idlewild Baptist, St. James United Methodist and Water’s Edge. The team’s record so far this season is 3 wins to 2 losses, not that anyone is counting. To North Pointe players, the score is secondary.
“I just like playing ball,” Wells said. “I stick with the church league because the attitudes of the players are generally better. I don’t have to worry about the people getting drunk and wanting to fight. It’s just fun.”
Wells, 62, is the oldest player on North Pointe’s 15-person team. They can play 12 at a game, so some people always sit out and cheer the others on. Women are welcome to play as well, though none are on the team at this time.
“It’s just a bunch of us old guys,” joked shortstop Greg Moore, 45. “We don’t get to competitive because we’re just happy we can still play.”
Moore has played softball since he was a kid and currently coaches his son’s little league baseball team, the champion Temple Terrace Rays. He has been on the North Pointe team since the beginning and said he looks forward to playing each season.
“It’s a great group of guys,” Moore said. “The team is also a great outreach for the church. It’s a way to minister to people who aren’t comfortable with the idea of a church atmosphere and show them that Christians are just normal average people.”
Wells agrees. He is happy when the team helps spread the word about North Pointe Church, 2427 Old Cypress Creek Road. His son, Steve, is music pastor at the church, which opened in Land O’ Lakes in 2005 and currently has more than 200 members. Wells said the softball team is just one of many great things about North Pointe.
“I had a man call and say he was interested in church softball,” Wells said. “When he googled it for our area, North Pointe came up and he wanted to join the team. Now, he goes to our church.”
Moore said the team usually has four or five new players each year. Some are already at North Pointe, some do not attend church and some come from other churches.
“They come to play because they like sports and they like ball,” Moore said. “Most of them join the church.”
Phil Fuller, 61, joined the team a year after it started. He now plays first and second base. He’s known for knocking the opposing team out at first.
“They didn’t start winning until I joined,” Fuller joked.
Fuller is an all-around athlete. He’s played softball all his life and spent 25 years practicing martial arts. He’s been banged up playing sports through the years but said it’s worth every sore muscle.
“I play hard,” he said. “When you only play once a week like I do now, there are muscles in the body that don’t get used very much and they’re not ready for much action, so you can get hurt, but the game is so much fun.”
Fuller has made a lot of good friends on the North Pointe team and said his favorite thing about it is the fellowship.
“I like the church team because there’s not a lot of criticism,” Fuller said. “People don’t get down on each other and there’s no profanity. No one gets into big fights.”
Moore said there are still arguments every now and then about bad calls. It’s just handled in a clean way.
“It’s church ball but it’s still ball,” he said. “Sometimes we’ll argue over balls and strikes, but no one’s ever in someone’s face yelling and cursing.”
As the team’s coach, Wells doesn’t allow sore losers.
“We pray before every game and we pray after every game,” Wells said.
For information on North Pointe Church and to sign-up for softball, call (813) 545-9420. Visit www.agreatchurch.net.
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