After 53 years inside the pitching circle, Curt Thiel is certain that not even death will stop his right arm.
"When I die they're going to have to build a special coffin for me — one with a bubble in it because every spring my arm is going to start going in a circle," Thiel said.
Nothing, it seems, can slow down the 66-year-old Thiel, who still hurls for his company team, Idaho Tractor Rental, each week in a Boise fast-pitch softball league.
Often the father of six, grandfather of 26 and great-grandfather of 10 is backed by younger family members. Last week during a game at Ann Morrison Park, Thiel took to the circle with a son, a son-in-law and three grandsons behind him in the field.
"That's awesome. I just can't hardly wait to see the great-grandkids out here where I'm playing with them, too," Curt said.
Then, noting that his oldest great-grandson is 4, he added,
"That's asking an awful lot."
No one is betting against him.
"He outworks everybody at work, that's for sure," said his youngest son, Chris.
"He throws as good a game as any young kid does," said Dave, who plays first base and pitches for ITR, the family business that was started by Curt's father.
On this night, the great-grandchildren ran around the park — playing, laughing and crying.
Nights at the ballpark are a given in this family. Always have been.
"I was born and raised on the bleachers," Dave said.
Said grandson Dustin, a third baseman, "It's a family event. Everybody comes out and we all get together."
Curt picked up the game in 1953 and was elected to the Idaho State Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame in 1991. Aside from four recent seasons when injuries have kept him off the field, Curt has been in the circle all summer.
"Every anniversary of our married life has been on the ballfield," said Jane, Curt's wife of 47 years. "If they had scheduled a game on the night of our wedding he would have been in the pitcher's circle and not at the altar."
Not wanting to jinx things after all these years, Curt is certain he'll find a game to play that night this year.
Jane and Curt wear necklaces adorned with a glove and ball and one with Curt's No. 36. The couple has one of those fairy-tale stories. They met on March 5, 1959, were engaged on April 17th of the same year and married that June 28.
Forty-seven years — and countless games pitched later — here they are.
And Thiel has done more than just continue playing fast-pitch softball.
He's helped it flourish by serving as a pitching coach to not only his family members, but fast-pitch girls around the Treasure Valley, helping more than 30, including a granddaughter, earn college scholarships.
For the past few years, Curt saw his personal pitching-coach industry flourish, growing to more than 100 girls before health concerns prompted him to shut it down. Now he serves as the pitching coach at Albertson College.
He built a field of dreams behind Idaho Tractor Rental in Nampa, where a women's league, which includes several family members, now plays its games. The field — like the game — is family friendly. There are playgrounds and sandboxes so that moms can see their children and vice versa during the game.
It's his game. And he is as devoted to it as he is his family.
"I tried slow pitch for one game years ago. I laid down the most beautiful bunt I've ever laid in my life, and they called me out. I got on the next time with a hit and I stole second, and they called me out," Curt said.
"I said, 'There's something wrong here. They just don't quite understand the game of softball.' And I never played slow pitch again."
Slow — now that's just never been his speed.