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Pitcher realizes pro ball dream at age 60

SANTA FE, N.M. — Persistent player signed for 1 inning in July 17 Fuego game

On the heels of a scheduled national television appearance, 60-year Paul Risso of Los Lunas was offered his shot of a lifetime: a chance to pitch for a professional ballclub.

Risso – who was to be featured in Tuesday’s “Today Show” but told the Journal that his segment was pushed back to next week – was signed to a one-day contract by the independent Pecos League.

“He’s been trying out for us for five years. We told him, ‘Man, I don’t think it’s going to work,’ but he wanted to go to spring training anyway,” said Pecos League Commissioner Andrew Dunn about Risso’s latest tryout in 2012. “Obviously he’s not a front-line guy, but he actually got some hitters out. … And since he’s so dedicated, I figured, let’s give him a shot.”

Dunn said, while Risso will not start the contest, he will pitch one inning for the Raton Oso against the Santa Fe Fuego on July 17 at Fort Marcy Park. Game time is 6 p.m.

Risso’s story went public when he was featured in an article in the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press last month, charting what ultimately turned into an unsuccessful bid to play for the St. Paul Saints of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. He then appeared in a Journal article Tuesday in advance of his (since postponed) “Today Show” segment, which caught Dunn’s eye.

While Risso understands that skeptics may see his one-game, one-inning stint as merely a publicity stunt for the fledgling eight-team Pecos League, the sexagenarian is out to prove them wrong.

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“Is there a human-interest element to this? I don’t think there’s any way around it – not many 60-year-old guys are doing stuff like this,” said Risso, whose day job is general manager with New Mexico Water Service Co. in Belen. “But to be honest with you, if I was lobbing the ball out there, they’re not putting me on the field.”

Risso was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the sixth round of the 1973 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft out of San Mateo (Calif.) College before a shoulder injury derailed his professional career.

Risso won’t be the first pitcher of an advanced age to step on the mound at Fort Marcy Park. Last season, the self-described “Ageless Arm” Rod Tafoya pitched for the Fuego at age 48. Tafoya went winless through six starts, finishing his Pecos League stint with an 8.87 ERA.

ALL-STAR WEEKEND: The Santa Fe Fuego will play host to the Pecos League All-Star game Saturday at Fort Marcy Park. The home run derby is at 2 p.m., and game time is 6 p.m. Cost is $6.50.

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