Health & Fitness
For seniors, softball hits it out of the park
A Home Run
Following a 35-year career as a teacher and school administrator, Dan Hayes was still a spry 61 when he saw an ad in a newspaper and decided to play senior softball 21 years ago.
Now, at age 82, he’s still going strong—and he attributes that in part to the sport he enjoys so much.
“It really astonishes people when they come watch us play, and they’re surprised at the ability and agility of people 70 and 75 years old,” he says. “They’re surprised that we’re so capable, and that’s an ego boost and makes us try harder.”
That’s not to say that everyone in the league has to be a superstar. In fact, one of the things Hayes likes so much about the sport is that there’s something for everyone.
His Akron, Ohio, Silver League doesn’t turn down anyone interested in playing slow-pitch softball, and there are five age categories starting at 45 and going through 70-plus, ensuring that players are fairly matched with their peers.
Plus, the games are held at different times to allow for variances in schedules. “The fellows who are still employed can play in the evening,” he says. “Us old-timers can play in the morning.”
The World War II veteran also enjoys the fact that he can carry on his natural inclination to teach by helping others improve their game. “I’m always a manager, and there are opportunities there,” he says.
Hayes helps players learn the techniques of base throwing, where to throw the ball, when to slide, when to run in or hold up on base—“all the different skills you need in baseball,” he says.
Carl Dimengo, also an NEA member located in Akron, got into the sport at the urging of his friend Hayes. The 81-year-old Dimengo lists many reasons why the sport is good for seniors: “You meet lots of people—we’ve got 500 people in the league. It’s good exercise, and you’re out there in the summer. Sometimes you play four or five times a week.”
He points out that for those reasons and more, slow-pitch softball is very popular with seniors. “There are certainly teams all over the United States, especially in Florida,” he says.
R.B. Thomas Jr., executive director of International Senior Softball Association in Manassas, Virginia, says senior softball is “well-organized throughout the United States, with probably over 2 million participants now, and with a lot of organized tournaments, which affords you the opportunity to travel,” he says.
Another important aspect of the sport is the social scene, according to Thomas. “The camaraderie that develops not only among the teams but among the players of all teams is really special,” he says. “For the older groups, being involved in a team sport is often even more important because that’s the age when people start to lose their friends.”
While a certain amount of physical fitness is required to play softball at any age, Thomas hopes seniors who are considering the sport won’t be intimidated.
“I’d recommend all couch potatoes to get up off the couch and head out on the ball field and start playing and having fun,” he says. Once they’re on the field, he says, physical fitness will follow. “Many senior leagues organize indoor activities in the winter, where they’ll rent a facility and carry out some kind of program.”
As for Hayes, he doesn’t plan on giving up one of his favorite sports anytime soon.
“You never get too old,” he says. “We can’t sit around in a rocking chair and live vicariously. We have to get out there and do it.”
“Basically for a person to participate, they would need to have a pair of baseball shoes, a bat and a glove,” says R.B. Thomas, Executive Director of the International Senior Softball Association. He offers some other tips:
“In terms of getting on a league team, they would need a uniform, sometimes just a shirt and a hat. A pair of really good shoes, such as Tanel 360, would cost you $60 to $100. Softball bats are really a wide range because of the technology. They start at about $50. Most people who are playing seriously are using bats that cost $200 and $300 each. And the glove would be somewhere in the $50 range.”
North American Senior Circuit Softball
P.O. Box 1085
Mount Clemens, MI 48046
2701 K St., Suite 101A
Sacramento , CA 95816
Softball Players Association
12316 A North May Ave.
Oklahoma City , OK 73120