Calling all rookies; It’s softball season again
The team managers gathered around the backstop. Standing shoulder to shoulder clip boards in hand, solemn looks of concentration etched on their faces underscored the seriousness of the moment as hushed voices commented, analyzed and critiqued every movement of the newest crop of rookies to enter the league.
In the field, the unknown players identified only by their numbered red rookie shirts were being run through their paces. Their running, fielding, batting abilities were well-chronicled by scribbling managers in an effort to capture the best players for their squads. This is indeed serious rookie business.
The month of March is rookie season for the Gold Country Senior Softball Association, a chance for new players from the county to come and display their skills for the league managers. Many players advance through the Master League, which plays on Wednesday nights, others come in right off the couch like I did five years ago when I turned 50 and became eligible for the Grand Daddy of all softball competition in our area.
On an adjacent field at Western Gateway Park, the Home of Senior Softball in Nevada County the mood was quite different as veteran players from many years in the league greeted each other with hugs and smiles after a long winter’s nap of no softball.
Saturday practices for the veterans are as much a celebration of another year to play together as they are an opportunity to stretch muscles that have not been used in recent months. An opportunity to “See the ball, Hit the Ball” as veteran slugger Bill Baxley describes it.
And so they came last Saturday, veteran players of every ability welcoming each other in the brotherhood of sports, remembering seasons past while preparing for the current campaign and the memories it would bring.
Veteran All Star players like Tony Clark who hit .629 last season, Steve Burnett a .710 slugger who also managed last years champions Street Magic Limo was taking his hacks at the plate, as well as Jerry Hall, a .661 hitter who could still play in the uptown league. Jim Keck, who spanked a .647 average last year and who is the master of pre game stretch, was back on the field along with Frank Seman, a .524 player who stays in shape all year by lifting weights. And then there’s our own Jeff Ackerman a .467 contributor who vowed to hit the cover off the ball this year and go a lot more to right field as The Union team looks for its first league title.
All of them taking the field to shag balls, engage in friendly banter then take turns hitting a bucket of 25 balls in the warm midmorning sunshine.
The smell of cut grass, the crack of the bat, the popping sound of ball hitting leather, the laughter and the smiles were all the sounds of the day.
But one of the most inspiring moments was the site of 82-year-old Tony Martin, who hit .409 last season, taking his position at third base. That’s right third base, the hot corner, the place where your teeth can be knocked out on any play by a sharply hit line drive or ground ball.
And as I gave him a hug and told him how great is was to see him back for another season, my secret baseball wish was that I would still be able to play the game as well as him if I was lucky enough to live that long .
And so it was on the second Saturday of spring training for the senior league.
And the best part is that there is still time for you to get up off the couch and become a rookie all over again.
Just like your first time in Little League or when you tried out for your high school team. But unlike those tryouts, in the senior league you are guaranteed to be selected for a team – even if you are Gil Dominguez who surprised everyone last season and finally hit more than his weight with an eye popping .661, a .286-point increase over the previous season.
So yes your softball dreams can come true, as well. You can play the game you love again and sometimes even win the championship.
In three weeks it will all be decided and the rosters for the 10 teams of the 2008 Gold Country Senior Softball Association (GCSSA) will be set.
Our next three Saturday practices are March 15, 22 and 29. So get out there Rookie and show us what you’ve got.
Because we’ve got a lot of games to play and a lot of memories to make this summer.
Gil Dominguez is a local sports broadcaster for TouchDown Productions and can be reached at 274-2206 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Little League District 11 postseason is off to a hot start.