The sun and 90-degree temperatures bore down on Don Joy as he took his position at third base Friday.
Wind gusts blew dirt and dust off the infield and into Joy's face, leaving the Westminster resident to wonder about upstate New York's reputation for idyllic summer weather.
Joy, 60, apparently was able to shrug off any hardships posed by the conditions, because he proceeded to help his softball team, the All-Stars, based in Bowie, Prince George's County, to a pair of wins on the first day of the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic III.
"It wasn't a bad start, I guess," said Joy after collecting six hits and eight RBI in the two wins.
"I thought it might slow us down a bit," he said of the uncharacteristic weather, which resulted in the hottest, muggiest day of the year for the Syracuse area.
"But I feelmore loose when it's warm like this," Joy said. "Sometimes that helps the older folks."
Joy is one of 10 Carroll residents competing in the biennial event, which features six days of competition in 18 events for athletes age 55 and older.
More than 5,000 athletes, including some former Olympians and professional athletes from across thenation have come to town for the games.
Other Carroll residents who were in action Friday included Diane Perry of Taneytown, competingin the 100-meter -- for women age 55-59, and Woodbine resident Otto Seraphin, a member of a softball team playing in the 65-and-older bracket.
Joy's team qualified for the national event by winning Maryland's softball title in the 55-64 age bracket.
On Friday, the All-Stars romped to a win in their first game, drubbing a team from Denver, 21-6. The game was halted after 4 1/2 innings because of a 15-run "slaughter" rule in effect for the tournament.
Joy helped get the All-Stars out of the blocks by drilling a bases-loaded triple that put the team ahead, 4-1, in the bottom of the first inning.
The Denver team rallied in the top of the second to take 6-5 lead. But the All-Stars responded with six runs in their half of the inning -- including an RBI single by Joy -- and the rout was on.
"We put them in ahole, and they never could quite come back," Joy said after the game, which was delayed several times when wind gusts blew dust across the diamond.
After watching Joy rip the triple and single down the right-field line, the Denver team resorted to the "Ted Williams Shift"when Joy stepped to the plate for his third at-bat.
The formation-- named after the Hall of Fame slugger who starred for the Boston Red Sox -- involves stacking one side of the outfield with extra players to defend against a heavy pull hitter.
Despite the shift, Joy managed a single that landed amid four fielders.
The All-Stars faced much more of a challenge in their second game.
The team blew a 10-run lead against the Grey Ghosts, a team from Tulsa, Okla., before clawing back to win, 24-19.
The game was marred by a total 36 walks, as the wind created havoc for pitchers.
After leading by as many as 10 runs, the Maryland team was ahead, 16-12, in the bottom of the fourth and four minutes from victory.
Tournament rules call for a game to end after 1 hour and 15 minutes if one team is ahead by four or more runs.
First a Tulsa player blooped an RBI single, and then, at 1 hour, 12 minutes, the next hitter clubbed an inside-the-parkgrand slam to put his team ahead by one and force the game to continue.
The All-Stars tied the game in the sixth and iced it with six runs in the seventh and final inning.
Seraphin's 65-and-older team, the Old Dominions, also won Friday, but the story line contrasted greatly.
The team, made up largely of players from Arlington, Va., broke a 2-2 tie in its last at-bat for a 3-2 win.
Though playing on a different diamond than the All-Stars, Seraphin said the Old Dominions also had trouble contending with the swirling wind and dust.
"The dust was terrible," he said. "When you reach down to field a ball, you get a handful of dust. But both teams have to play on the samefield."
Both players emphasized the importance of winning the first game in a big tournament.
"The first one is always a tough one," Seraphin said.
The teams are playing in four-team round-robin brackets, with the bracket winners qualifying for the final round robin, which starts Monday.
While softball teams featuring Maryland players were faring well, Taneytown's Perry was encountering harder luckin the 100-meter --.
Perry finished fourth in a five-runner preliminary heat and failed to qualify for Saturday's finals. Her time was20.4 seconds.
Perry's heat was won by Janet Freeman of Napoleon, Ohio, whose time of 15.3 was the second fastest of the event's six heats.
But Perry said she was not discouraged by her showing Friday.Her strongest event, the shot put, lies ahead, as does competition in the long jump, high jump and the 200-meter --.
"There's some really talented women in these events," she said.
A half-hour delay before the 100-meter heats that left the runners standing around in the hot sun didn't help, Perry said. But she wasn't complaining.
"That's not an excuse, but in (state) competition we didn't have that long wait," she said.
A Carroll couple wasn't in Syracuse for 24 hours, yet they managed to find themselves on local television.
Westminster residents Mary Sanders, 61, and husband, Ed, 65, were in town to take part in the seniors archery competitions.
On Friday, they were approached by a television crew from Channel 9, the local ABC affiliate.
During the interview, the Sanders, who began competition yesterday, were asked to offer their thoughts on visiting in theSyracuse area.