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Thursday, October 12, 2023

Rod Tafoya played and then continued playing, into his late-50s

Rod Tafoya 1990 Erie Sailors card

Young Rod Tafoya couldn't catch on with an affiliated club at age 22, so he turned his sights to Mexico, The Santa Fe New Mexican wrote in October 1986.

The team in Puerto Vallarta, a AA winter league club, was going to give him a shot, he told The New Mexican.

His hope, he told The New Mexican: That he "may be be promoted to the AAA summer Mexican League and jump to minor league ball in the states before I'm too old."

For Tafoya, he did jump back to the minors, for two independent co-op teams. But he continued playing elsewhere, where he seemingly continued to dismiss the term "too old" to play. 

He continued in semi-pro, and even briefly in the affiliated minor leagues, until his late 50s, including in 2021 at the age of 57. Instead of "too old," he took the title "ageless," writing a book on his career. He's even since worked to overcome a stroke he suffered in early 2022.

Tafoya's career began that year in 1986, signed by the Puerto Vallarta team. He moved to the AAA Aguascalientes Rieleros in 1987.

For 1989, he signed stateside, with independent co-op Boise. He went 3-4 over 12 outings, nine starts, with a 3.26 ERA.

In late-July 1989, Tafoya made a late bid for a no-hitter, what would have been the second of his career, but for an eighth-inning hit, The Idaho Statesman wrote.

"I'm disappointed," Tafoya told The Statesman of losing the no-hitter. "I was on my mind when I went out there in the eighth and it would have been nice. But the important thing is that the team won and got to .500."

He moved to short-season co-op Erie for 1990. He saw just three starts, suffering an arm injury.

But he kept playing. He played 1997 at independent Regina and went 6-4, with a 9.71 ERA. In 1998, The Albuquerque Journal was already featuring him and his continued pursuit of the game as he helped a 30-and-over team to a tournament medal in Oregon.

In 2000, as he worked in banking, Tafoya continued playing on the side, helping a team win a senior league title.

"I never imagined I'd be playing at 36," Tafoya told The Rio Grande Sun that December. "It's beyond my wildest dreams."

In 2010, at age 46, he set a shutout record for the oldest player in his Men's Senior Baseball League to record a shutout. In 2011, he threw a no-hitter. In 2014, he surpassed 300 career wins as he turned 50.

"This is as important as a major league player's 300th win, only Rod doesn't get paid for it," league founder Steven Sigler told The Associated Press. "This is for pride, for his teammates, for MSBL, all of these things that have given him a second chance at baseball."    

Tafoya continued playing into 2021. He's credited with pitching a game each season in the Pecos League from 2018 to 2021, including a game in 2020 with Salina.

In 2012, he released his autobiography, Ageless Arm. He's due to release his second book in late 2023, "Inside the Core: The Passion Lives On."

Then, in early 2022, he suffered a stroke. He has chronicled his recovery on his book Facebook page

"Always keep this in mind:  You can overcome ANYTHING," he wrote on his Facebook page in August 2023, "as long as you have faith, determination, heart, (passion,) family, and valued friends, and teammates who are willing to lend a helping hand to help in your journey."

Rod Tafoya 1990 Erie Sailors card

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:4,243
Made the Majors:1,385-32.7%
Never Made Majors:2,858-67.3%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:562
10+ Seasons in the Minors:346-X

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