By David Rogers. August 25, 2018. BOONE, NC — There are a lot of “soccer moms” and “soccer dads” that could learn a thing or two from Senior Softball. Whatever level is being played, at their heart the games are supposed to be about fun — even when they are the basis for what has become big business in today’s professional sports.
CLICK THUMBNAILS TO ENLARGE. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News.
Officially, we don’t know that Senior Softball is Medicare-approved, but after watching the first couple of games during Friday’s tournament in Boone for 70+ year-olds, from four different metro areas (the High Country, Tri-Cities, Charlotte, and Burnsville), we suspect that Uncle Sam might say “OK.” Long past thinking about a competitive future in athletics as a profession, just about everyone taking the field at Watauga County Parks & Recreation softball facilities on a “Chamber of Commerce” type of day on Saturday was like-minded: fun and safety were the highest priorities.
The rules for the Senior Softball version of the game go out of their way to prevent collisions and other injury events. For instance, a player trying to score, running from third toward home plate doesn’t run down the base bath to what we traditionally know as the run-scoring destination. Instead, there is a second “home plate” some eight or more feet behind the real one. Don’t run to the plate where the catcher might be standing. Run to the other one, closer to the backstop. If the runner reaches the second plate before the ball reaches the catcher standing on the traditional home plate, then he scores a run.
Similarly, there is a second first base just for the runners to touch and cross while the first baseman receives an infield throw on the traditional first base. Result: collisions are unlikely.
A runner found sliding into any base is called “out.” Still got that Mickey Mantle mindset but a little closer to geriatric territory? Hitters can have substitute runners, usually the last player on your team to be caught for an out.
And when a player from the opposing team yells some kind of an acknowledgment for your nice catch and throw or even your home run, don’t think for a minute he is shaving points to benefit his bookie. He’s just having fun and hoping you are, too.
Just because a guy is older doesn’t mean that he is old when he is actually still a kid at heart.
The batting team usually provide the home plate umpire, and at least on this day that guy was the only official on the field and his rulings stand, un-arguable. It doesn’t matter how right you are or if the ump must have been watching that pretty girl in the stands instead of the play on the field. If you argue, you are sent promptly to the showers (at least figuratively speaking).
Of course, the umpire might change from inning to inning, depending on whether the ump gets tired or called on by his manager to play a couple of innings.
Yes, Senior Softball reminds its appreciative audience (even those diehard fans executing a two-person “wave” in the grandstands) that games are first and foremost just that, games. Recreation. Amusements. Diversions. Maybe the players don’t leave burn marks on the basepaths as the rip their way around the bases. Maybe they let a lot of balls get by them, if not between their legs as they are a little slow getting their gloves down. But in the end, Senior Softball is about fun, entertainment, and exercise. A teammate might say, “Oh, no!” — but usually it is in more of an empathetic sort of way.
Just because a guy is older, it doesn’t have to mean that he is old when, in actuality, he is still a kid at heart.
FOR THE RECORD: Anyone interested in playing Senior Softball should contact Bert Valery by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. All are welcome. There is a 60+ program as well as a 70+ program hosted by Watauga Parks & Recreation. All skill levels (and infirmities) accepted.