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Playing Church League Softball

What happens when 58 year old man plays on a team with 25-35 year olds?

This story goes back to about 1998, so it is being written more than 20 years later. Therefore the possibility exists that some of my recollections are not true, but I believe they are to the best of my knowledge.       ~Jay

At the time our family was attending Wildwood Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee, Florida. One of the men that I knew well approached me and asked if I would be interested in playing on the church softball team.

I didn’t know much about church softball, but the teams seemed to consist of men between ages 25 and 35, who had barrel chests and arms bigger than my thighs. These church teams had rules like, in any one inning the first ball hit over the fence can be a homerun but all other balls hit over the fence that inning are considered a fly out and runners are not allowed to advance. That should give you some idea of the power of these young men.

At that time I was about 58, so I asked my friend first of all if he was kidding, and second, why would he ever want me on his church team? The answer, of course, that he couldn’t come right out and say, was that he was desperate for players. So, reluctantly, I agreed.

He asked me if I could play outfield. I responded that over the previous couple of years I had coached Little League teams and probably hit 1000 balls to the outfield for my players to practice catching, but I never caught a ball in the outfield during that time. My friend said that was no problem and he assigned me to a position where I could do as little damage as possible: catcher.

This was a slow pitch league with no leading off and no base stealing so my responsibilities were pretty much commensurate with my skills. It turned out that during the entire season I only had one play; it was a throw from the outfield to nail a runner trying to score from third. The throw was almost perfect. But I juggled it and the runner scored. Oh well.

After about four weeks or maybe five weeks into the season I noticed I was hitting in the fourth position, normally considered “clean up“ and normally a batting position reserved for your best.

My friend, who was also the coach, pointed out that I had the highest batting average on the team. That was interesting. Up to that time and even later I never hit for anything better than a single, while my team mates were hitting long balls into the outfield and even over the fence, when I batted, I simply looked for holes in the defense that would let me get on base and I hit the ball into the hole.

Maybe those 1000 balls hit into the outfield for Little League helped me place the ball better than most.

At any rate this has been a fun story to tell, and I still maintain that it is true.

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