Thursday, June 2, 2016

Gray Panthers

Two years ago I wrote a blog called, "Am I a Kid or What?"  It was about a 37 and older baseball league that plays near the park where I live.  I just reread it.  I did so because last night as I took some laps around the park, I saw a game with guys who looked like 37 was way back in the rear view mirror.  I'd not recalled the entirety of the earlier blog, but as I just was reminded, a fellow with whom I'd conversed two years ago told me about a 55 year and older league as well.

It was indeed this 55 and older league that I saw last night.  I think there were some fellows out there who, like me, have not seen 55 in a spell.  Lots of gray, some very serious beer guts.  Every one of these guys looked like their wives told them one thing before they left for the park, "I don't want to hear it when you come back aching."

The thing is, these guys in their prime had to be good.   The pitcher for the visiting Winchester team had a gut that would have required a periscope for him to see his toes, but let me tell you he could throw. He had a fastball that came in pretty quick and a change up curve that was fooling the hitters. As I wrote in the earlier blog, the throw from third to first and short to first on a baseball diamond is long.  Go try it if it has been a while since you have been on a diamond.  Long throw. The shortstop for the Waltham team had a gun from short.  Of course, given the speed of the runners, you did not need a gun, but still the guy could throw.

A player from Winchester--another fellow who has not passed on the Budweisers-tagged a fastball that hit the very distant fence in two bounces.  It was a rocket.  When the ball left the bat, one of his teammates yelled--seriously--"don't let that be only a single."  A major leaguer would have circled the basis with that shot. The hitter last night did get to second but just by a smidgen. The first base coach who was kibitzing with me told me that the hitter was one of the best athletes in Winchester in his prime. "Course he's put on a pound or two recently."

This league allows stealing.  The catcher for Winchester was laboring so. Yet he made accurate throws to second base on steals, and caught the entire game without missing pitches.  The poor fellows who were playing first base on the respective teams each had difficult moments because--as I now know--leaping or even stretching for off the mark throws can be difficult once you start getting mailers from AARP. One of the first basemen made a sensational catch, but afterwards took a header which did not win style points.

I know I can play with these guys and I may go out there next Wednesday and ask if they could use an extra player.  I have not swung a bat in many years, can not throw far, and have not run a lick since the surgery, but still I have good hands and can catch a fly if I do not have to run too far.

What I took away from last night was how much fun these guys were having. Here they were--and if you saw them moving around you would not have thought this was fun--each one was moving really slowly--especially the catchers.  But they were out there, having a good time playing a sport that at one time they could play well. The league is very official. An umpire calling balls and strikes, another on the bases, 90 feet between bases, 60 feet 6 inches from the mound to home plate, uniforms with numbers on the back.  I will bet each of these players had to toss in 200 dollars to play for the season--at least--for the right to use the fields, pay the umps, and buy the uniforms. (Not to mention the cost of the grief they must get at home or, if they are still employed, at work the next day as they hobble about).

The park is no more than a three minute walk from my house.  I can literally hear the chatter and see the lights from my deck. Maybe the Waltham team can use a second baseman.

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