NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Mr. Gerald Sazon, a former player in the American Negro Baseball League, can hardly believe he’s now 86.

The staff at St. Margaret’s Nursing Home in Mid-City is making sure their resident, Sazon, feels special on his birthday with a baseball-themed party.

At just 16-years-old, Sazon started playing for the New Orleans Creoles and then the New Orleans Black Pelicans before pitching for the Indianapolis Clowns.

“They used to call me ‘fireball,’” said Sazon. “Yeah, I used to throw it so hard [that] I wouldn’t see it until it got to the catcher’s mitt and hear it pop.”

Although Sazon and his teammates were idolized by many, they still faced their fair share of challenges.

“If we would go to a town that didn’t have a colored boarding house or anything, we had to sleep on the bus, and at the same time, get up in the morning to play baseball,” recalled Sazon. “Riding on that bus used to wear you down.”

However, Sazon mostly has fond memories, and his favorite memory is beating a top-notch player in the league.

“Beating Hank Aaron’s team in Prichard, Alabama, and I pitched and beat them,” said Sazon.

As Sazon celebrates his birthday surrounded by his loved ones, he considers himself blessed.

“I’m thankful for the years, and I’m thankful for the recognition,” said Sazon.