Mercer Builders: Three generations on one softball diamond

Last Thursday night as high school students played football and baseball, the softball diamond along Kristine Lilly Way was populated by a considerably older crowd.

They were members of two teams facing off in the playoffs of Wilton’s adult recreational softball league: Mercer Builders vs. Wilton Jewelers.

Softball, like baseball, is a game steeped in statistics, but is there a statistic that keeps track of multi-generational rosters? From the same family?

That is the core of Mercer Builders’ platoon that includes three members of the Mercer-Socci family: patriarch Ken Mercer, son Keith Mercer, and grandson/nephew Jimmy Socci.

They all have one thing in common. They love to compete.

Jimmy summed up their strategy this way. “We work hard, we play hard and we score more runs than the other team.”

The team’s record bears that out. At season’s end the team was 9-4, and was third seed in the playoffs behind Orem’s Diner and Hickory AC.

Last Thursday, Sept. 11, Ken pitched a shutout for an 11-0 victory. They were to play again Tuesday, Sept. 16.

The playoffs are a double-elimination competition, meaning if a team loses two games it is out.

“We’ve always been one of the two last standing for many years,” Ken said.

But winning isn’t everything and the three men insist they enjoy playing with one another for its own sake.

“I’m pretty privileged to play with my son and grandson,” he said.

Ken has played softball most of his life — 50 years — 30 of those here in Wilton on various Parks and Recreation teams.

“I just love the game and the competition,” he said.

Ken owns Mercer Builders in Wilton, and works with his son Keith, who is a carpenter. Jimmy is Ken’s daughter Kimberly Socci’s son. He works with his father at Socci Plumbing in Stamford.

Ken decided to have his company sponsor the team about eight years ago “just because I want to have my son and grandson play.”

“It’s wonderful,” said Keith, who is 44. “I’ve been playing with my dad 22 seasons or so.”

While Ken is a pitcher —  “the best in the league,” according to his son — left-handed Keith plays first base and Jimmy plays second, short or third base.

At 68, Ken is the oldest player in the league and 21-year-old Jimmy is one of the youngest, and they say it works out well.

“It’s good. We learn from them,” Jimmy said. “It’s all about the competition.”

Who is the best hitter of the three?

“That’s got to be me,” Jimmy said with a laugh, although his uncle Keith swings a mean bat as well.

“Keith is a close second,” he allowed.

As a teenager, Ken played one year for Mount St. Charles School in Rhode Island. Keith played Little League and Babe Ruth baseball and Jimmy played Little League and for Westhill High School in Stamford. Ken spent many years coaching Little League and Babe Ruth teams in Wilton.

Where they differ is on major league team loyalty.

Ken wears No. 7 on his jersey, in honor of New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle. It’s the only number he has ever worn. Keith is also a diehard Yankees fan.

But Jimmy, his loyalty lies with the New York Mets.

How do they deal with that?

“It works out,” Ken said. “We don’t talk about it much.”

Jimmy agreed. “I always fall on the losing end of the stick.”

The Mercers and Soccis are true sports-loving families.

“As a family we play a lot of softball,” Ken said, but also basketball and football on Thanksgiving.

“We’ll play anything we can win,” Jimmy added, “even Wiffle ball.”

Ken said he expects to play next year, and they may very well expand their family roster. Ken’s daughter Robin has a 16-year-old son named Hunter. He is, as they say, on deck.