Today, I'm going to tell you about a great group of guys that come out nearly every day, year-around, to play the sport that they love -- softball.
Now this isn't just any softball. It's "senior softball," and that means players must be at least 50 years of age to participate. But most of us are much older than that -- many in our 70s, 80s, and even 90s. So while there is competition, there is fellowship and friendship -- and almost every day that I play I realize that's the most important reason of all.
I managed a senior softball team in Maryland before moving to Myrtle Beach in August 2016 and one of my first missions was to find a senior softball league in which I could play.
I have to tell you, searching online I struck gold.
I learned about a pickup league that plays every day except Tuesdays and weekends led by a guy named Art. I emailed him a little bit about myself -- that I'd played a lot in Maryland and managed a team, that I would play most any position and would love to join the league.
He simply responded with an email telling me to show up and where.
And so I did. I found a crazy mixture of men who were born and raised in South Carolina, men who have retired here from colder northern states, and even guys from Canada who show up from time to time. All are warmly welcomed.
So you show up a half hour before game time and Art and another player, Ernie, generally make up the teams based on who's there. They write the lineups on a white board and then we play. Often there are too many for two equal teams, so like today, we'll have three teams and simply alternate. Team A bats, Team C is in the field, and Team B sits. Then when Team A is done, they go in the field and Team B bats, while Team C sits. It's all very creative, but it works.
Skill levels vary, of course, and there are special considerations given for older players. If you're 75 or older, you can't be thrown out at first base from the outfield. If you're 80 or older, you get a special gold hat and outfielders must stay behind a certain line to make it easier for the 80-year-olds to get a base hit. And our 90-year-old? There's a special rule for him, too. He can't be struck out.
All of that is great and games are lots of fun. But the best part is the friendships that are formed and the care that is demonstrated for fellow players and their families. Often, games open with a prayer when those who are ill or injured are remembered. When a player reaches a rough patch in his life, teammates lend a hand financially or otherwise. I've seen it time and again.
I'm telling you this now because today was just my second game back from having shoulder surgery in January. It was like I had never left. Jet teased me about my politics. Ernie clapped me on my back, and then said I was still ugly. Others, like Big Mike, Jimmy, Bobby and Jim Bob showed genuine appreciation that I was able to come back and play.
Yea, it's just senior softball. It's just a bunch of geezers playing a kids' game and refusing to allow advancing age stop them from playing a sport they love.
But it's much more than that, and I'm happy to be back.