Senior Softball

A Senior Softball Player   by Marc LeverettAge- 59,  6/23/15 Team - North Colorado Select, B-2 division, Colorado Senior Softball Association, Pos. Left Field

A senior softball player is a guy who is old enough to be in the senior league (50 and older) and still healthy enough to actually play the game. He is aware that he is no longer the young jock he used to be and that his speed, flexibility, and yes, some degree of strength has been diminished by the years he has been blessed to live. Yet, the game is still the game. The grass is still the grass. The diamond still has three bases and a home plate. The glove still fits, the bat stills feels good in the hands. The ball, when caught, still feels, well, it's hard to describe if you don't already know, but there are few feelings more satisfying than feeling the ball hit right smack into the center of your glove's pocket with a good SNAP!

Did I mention the grass? There's something about the grass that makes the soul of every ball player feel wholesome, euphoric, and even awestruck, as he steps onto a ball field. It's a gift from God!  There have been times as I have driven past a ball diamond, and seen the green grass glistening with dew, and a thin haze of morning mist hovering just a few feet over the surface, that I got the same feeling of being in church or listening to great music. There have been times when I have seen a nighttime field lit up with a game in progress and memories would run through my mind like a freight train. I have even gotten a lump in my throat while beholding the familiar, nostalgic, pure American beauty of such a scene. 

Senior softball players (the majority of them anyway) played the game when they were younger and the game forever took residence in their psyches. They can identify with all players everywhere whether they are playing T-Ball, little league, high school ball, or girls softball. With all the variations, they are all played on the same basic field, a field with green grass and reddish dirt, and white lines.  Baseball is a universal language much like music or art.  Senior softball players get it.

There is a certain smell, sound, feel, and sixth sense about a ball field. Senior ball players have a lifetime of this accumulative sensory collection to heighten their love for the game and spur them on to ignore the pain brought from arthritic joints and strained muscles. There is power in the game that turns a man that had trouble all week going up the stairs, or who has to grunt to get himself up off the couch into a man who can run down and catch a fly ball, turn quickly to throw it with authority and feel only exhilaration.   (At least until the adrenaline and ibuprofen wears off.)  A senior softball player is a man that will pay the price of days muscle soreness and even endure limping around to be able to play the game he loves with his teammates on that glorious field of dreams.

A senior softball player is usually an old school kind of guy.  He sees the sport as an exercise in character just as much as a source of physical exercise.  Two words are learned early by every ball player.  These two words illustrate the moral integrity that is part of the game, “My bad”.  Those two words spoken right after one makes a bad throw, or drops the ball, or somehow makes a mistake, show the heart of a ball player as well as the heart of a gentleman.  “My bad” means, "I acknowledge my mistake and recognize it as a form of personal failure for which I take full responsibility."  We are all going to goof up now and then.  Even the very best players sometimes have to say “my bad”.  Innate with that two word apology is the unspoken assertion that we recognize a certain standard of excellence in play and hold ourselves accountable when we fail to meet it. 

In a way it is the reality that we don’t always execute every attempt perfectly that makes the times we do so rewarding. It would be boring to be totally perfect all the time.  Getting a good hit means something because there is the very real possibility of grounding out, popping out, or even the much dreaded striking out in slow pitch softball.  Just as with individual plays, there is no thrill in winning unless there is the possibility of losing. Senior softball players, like all ball players place themselves in an arena that will give them either elation or dejection, success or failure, high fives or drooped shoulders.  That’s the game.

Another old school senior softball quality is the compliment.  “Good catch!”, “Nice hit!”,  “Way to hustle!”, or “Great play!”  These also reveal the shared appreciation all players have for what it takes to play the game well.  These praises mean even more when they come from the mouth of an opponent!  Nothing is more meaningful to give or to receive than a well earned compliment for an outstanding play when that compliment comes from the other bench.  Nothing is more classy to do in softball than to be the giver of such an accolade when even though your team is behind in the score, and you want desperately to beat the other team, the human being on the other side who displayed such prowess and passion for the game impresses you to give credit where credit is due.  Also, the camaraderie that one finds in his own teammates as he puts his effort with theirs to win the game is priceless.  Seeing your teammate do something spectacular feels so good it is as if you did it also.

The senior softball bench is a sight to behold.  There are enough knee braces, compression shorts, ace bandages, and other assorted joint or muscle wraps to stock an orthopedic supply shop!  No Roman gladiator wore more muscle supporting gear than found on most senior softball players.  Between these various wrappings, various pain medications, and natural adrenaline these graying athletes manage to play at a level that often surprises younger players when they see these men take to the field in enthusiastic fervor, playing for keeps just as if it were the World Series.  Deep down, they know it isn’t the World Series.  They know that in the overall scheme of things senior league ball isn’t likely to catch a time slot on ESPN.  But the competitiveness and the desire to win makes them come out ready to give it 100% (at least 100% of what they have at this age) to the game.  They all sense that they are still better at the game than many guys half their age.

Senior softball players live with the nagging awareness that there will eventually come a time when their aging bodies may no longer allow them to play.  Several weeks ago I was getting ready for practice and watched as several senior players in the 70s and up league were walking to their field for a game.  I was surprised, amused, and impressed to see an old man (I later learned he was a decorated WW2 vet age 90!) in full uniform walking slowly, carefully, yet determinedly to his bench using his bat for a cane.  Yes, he could not walk well without help, but was going to do his part for his team.  90 years old and on a real softball team!  I noticed I was not the only one watching this old timer, and while we 60 year old players were all smiling and shaking our heads, I knew what each of us were thinking.  “God, let that be me in 30 years!     I can think of no better iconic picture to illustrate the spirit of senior softball than that old man using his bat for a cane as he made his way to the game.  Now THAT is a senior softball player!