For Jim Skiffey, it's just the love of the game.
The 1984 John F. Kennedy High School graduate left for Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Fla. He played baseball, more specifically left field.
When the summer came, he headed back home. He quickly gravitated toward the Warren AA baseball league. That was 1985.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Jim Skiffey of Niles, right, talks with teammates Sean Mancino of Youngstown, left, and Sly Awadallah of Austintown in the dugout before Sunday’s game in Warren. Skiffey, who is a designated hitter and outfielder, has played AA since 1985.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Jim Skiffey looks out from the dugout Sunday at Packard Park. Skiffey plays for Metro Ice.
Now, the 46 year old has been relegated to a designated hitter position for Metro Ice, but he's relished his role.
"He's one of the guys," said 34-year-old Metro Ice Manager Matthew Vadas. "I wouldn't say he's the mentor, but he's a leader. He's kind of like a bench coach kind of thing, not on the structural side of things, but on the camaraderie side of things. We get down 5-0, he's there pumping them up."
He's hitting more than .300. He has more than 550 hits and 200 stolen bases in his Warren AA career. There are only two players on Metro Ice that were alive by 1985, when Skiffey started with Metro Ice.
Skiffey is just another member of a team in a league dominated by players in their 20s.
"If they're brand new, first time out of the gate, they kind of question what he's doing," said Vadas, a 1996 Lakeview High School graduate. "It takes a few games and he goes 3-for-4 in a ballgame. They understand he keeps hitting, he's going to keep playing."
Skiffey keeps hitting because he's a tireless worker in the batting cage.
"He goes to the batting cages every single day," Vadas said. "He went to Florida on a trip this spring. Three of the days he was on vacation, he went to the batting cages down there. He just works at it."
"When you age, you have to keep it up now," Skiffey said. "I hit all the time. I went to the cage earlier today. We had a rain out game today. There's a cage in Florida, pretty close to where I had a place. I make sure I do my hits. There's no doubt about it. That's a must."
And there's time when Skiffey has to play outfield for Metro Ice.
"He doesn't question it at all, even though he knows he's not the best defender," Vadas said. "He knows he's not supposed to be out there. When he goes out there, when I need him out there, he doesn't question it. He takes the bullet, goes out there and does what I ask of him."
Skiffey gave an all-out effort during a recent doubleheader, playing the outfield.
"I played the outfield for many years, played down there for many years," Skiffey said. "I played outfield of the doubleheader Sunday (June 30). I told (a teammate), 'You realize how many years I was in this position here at Packard Park? I always picked left field.' He was actually born after I started in the league. I think he was born in 1993. It was funny.
"I keep active and that helps me play left field with a run. I was pretty tired after the doubleheader Sunday."
How many more years will Skiffey play Warren AA baseball?
"It's getting toward the end," he said. "I can tell you. I might go another couple of years. I'm also playing in a 50-year-old league. It's only on Sundays. I've been playing there too. I may start doing that later on. It's a lot less preparation there. I go to this other league and I don't have to do too much. I might go a couple more years, as long as Matt has a team. Matt's a great guy, great guy to play for, too."
But playing in Warren AA is never a chore for Skiffey.
"I kept playing in every year," he said. "I love baseball. You work all day. Graduate from college, wasn't going to go any further. Then, I had to get a job. Playing baseball after the job was refreshing. Still today, I go to work. You might get caught out on strikes. That's not a bad day."