ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- At an age when many professional athletes had retired or were thinking of calling it a career, Marc Sotile found himself just starting his at 42-years-old.
In 2014, the auto mechanic and garage owner made his debut with the Rochester Lancers and left his mark on the team and is an assistant coach with the Major Arena Soccer League club.
For his dedication to the team and sport, Sotile will be among 20 individuals who will be inducted into the Lancers indoor Wall of Fame at halftime of the Baltimore Blast game at the Dome Arena on Friday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m.
When he discovered he was among the honorees, Sotile said that he "was pretty shocked. I'm with an elite group of guys. I was originally not going to be on the team and somehow, miraculously ended up on the team. So, to be on the team for this many years, to be honored, it's an honor."
Current head coach Doug Miller, who played with and coached the Greece, N.Y.-born goalkeeper, realized what Sotile's worth was and is to the team.
"Mark is a local guy who knows the America dream, late in life, getting an opportunity play for the Lancers and making the most of it," he said. "Being from the Rochester market, it’s great to see players that can take advantage of that situation. Moving forward, it's given us the ability to recruit more local players to play for the Lancers."
Sotile's story is one of persistence, perseverance and patience as he began his journey while trying out with the Rochester Rhinos in their first season in 1996. He trained with the outdoor club because his father got sick. While soccer is important, there are other priorities in life as well.
In 2011, the Lancers returned to the Rochester scene. Sotile wanted to be a part of the team so badly that he was willing to be the team mascot, Lancer Louie.
"That's a funny story," he said. "Before I tried out, I just wanted to be part of the indoor team. I'm a pretty funny guy, I thought. So, I actually applied for Lancer Louie. Sam said, 'You're not going to apply for Lancer Louie. You're going to get to my tryouts and you're going to try out for the team. You're not going to be the mascot you're going to be one of my players.’ "
Sotile, who owns Joey's Auto Repair in Rochester, N.Y. wound up on the Lancers' reserve team, but wouldn't give up on his dream.
It certainly was a big confidence boost by the team owner.
"It is actually, but I've been friends of Sam [Fantauzzo, the team owner] for years and years and years," he said. "When I first started playing with the team, I was in my 40s already. I wasn’t thinking they're going to take a 40-year-old guy play soccer whether i was good enough or not, but they did, and it's been a helluva journey so far."
How the former Greece Arcadia High School star made his MASL debut is one for the movies. He had been shopping for his dinner at a Wegman's when Fantauzzo called him at 7 p.m. one night and told him that goalkeeper Gavin McInerney had broken his foot and the team had no goalkeeper for a game in Milwaukee the next day. "Can you get here?" Sam asked.
Sotile threw his rotisserie chicken into the microwave for a quick dinner and headed to Buffalo, because that was the only direct flight to Chicago. From there, he drove two hours to Milwaukee.
"I arrived in Milwaukee at three o'clock in the morning to play my first game against Milwaukee at three in the afternoon," he said. "So, that will be something I will always remember."
Things did not go well for the Lancers that afternoon as they dropped a 28-12 decision against the Milwaukee Wave.
"It’s not like I didn't play that bad," Sotile said. "At the time Milwaukee was beating us up all the time, anyways."
When he couldn't be at Joey's due to road matches, Sotile's family came in to help.
"Yeah, it wasn't easy," he said. "I had a lot of family members that would help. So, the days when I may not be here, they would answer phones, taking in cars and explaining to customers that if they take in cars, we'll have it for you on Monday. I had a lot of family members who helped out and covered me. They stepped up really big."
Sotile was just lived the dream that many boys have when playing sports.
"I just go out and do what I have to do with everybody," he said, "whether I play or not, i know that whatever I do in practice or even on game days off the field is to support everybody. It all helps everybody in the long run. Anytime I step onto the field with the Lancers, it brings tear to your eye. It sucks because every time you think to yourself, 'This could be your last time you play because how old I am.' "
Still, Sotile stuck with the team before coming on as an assistant coach.