By Zach Cavanagh
The Capo Classics, a senior group of basketball players who compete at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center gym, were honored at the San Juan Capistrano City Council meeting on Sept. 3 after a golden summer of championships.
The Capo Classics’ 85+ USA-CAL team won its fifth national age-group championship in New Mexico in June, and two Capo Classic 65+ members won a world championship with Team USA in Finland in August. All were honored at the meeting.
“The senior basketball team has traveled much of the globe,” San Juan Capistrano Mayor Brian Maryott said at the meeting. “They have more stamina and drive than many folks half their age. Their motto is ‘Age is a mental condition. If you want to be old, you’re old.’ ”
Player-manager Bob Messersmith, 86, spoke at the meeting and accepted the honor with his 85+ National Senior Games championship and Capo Classic teammates.
“Twenty years ago, a group of us guys were sitting around and said, ‘Let’s play some basketball competitively,’ ” Messersmith said. “The beautiful part of this is for these 85 (year-old) guys, it’s over for us. There isn’t anything. We’re waiting for the 90-year-old group.”
Messersmith and the USA-CAL team have won national championships in the 65, 70, 75, 80, and 85 age divisions.
“The city has supported this so tremendously,” Messersmith said. “We have people coming up, the younger guys—I call them all kids—and the Capo Classics are known all around the country. Now, they’re worldwide known.”
Darrell Cavanaugh, 66, of Mission Viejo, and Al Rosen, 73, of San Juan Capistrano, won FIMBA World Maxibasketball Championships with the USA 65+ team in Espoo, Finland on August 4. Marty Heim of San Clemente won bronze with the USA 60+ team.
“From my perspective, it’s a dream come true,” Cavanaugh said. “If you’re a basketball nut, there’s no higher level of competition, and then to represent your country, it’s unbelievable.”
The USA 65+ team beat Chile by 88 points, Italy by 31 points, Uruguay by 39 points and Brazil by 32 points to reach the final. For the gold, USA edged Russia, 70-66.
“Truly an honor,” Rosen said. “A great team and a great group of men. Once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Players such as Cavanaugh and Rosen are the “kids” Messersmith mentioned who will continue to carry the Capo Classics program that Messersmith and his group have firmly established.
“The idea is these guys set the standard for excellence,” Cavanaugh said, “and we’re trying to build and continue with the program of the Capo Classics, have the younger groups follow the path that they followed.”
The Capo Classics program has formed bonds and a community beyond basketball that all of the players value.
“Special opportunity for us to not only play basketball, but get to know guys,” Rosen said. “We’ve all helped each other with different injuries and illnesses. Just the social nature of it has been another addition to the basketball side of it.”
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports.
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