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Playing to win

Less than 200 miles away, San Francisco is sprucing itself up in preparation for the 2007 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

Maybe a member of the organization should have been around Gateway Park in Penn Valley Monday night to see how it was done.

The Gold Country Senior Softball Association, celebrating its 25th year, showcased the best talents amid the festivities, which included a Color Guard, singing the national anthem and “America the Beautiful” and “Take Me out to the Ball Bame” during the seventh inning and burgers and hot dogs aplenty.



The local television crew from Touchdown Productions was on hand to record the festivities as well.

“The only thing missing was the F-16 flyover,” All-Star Director Jim Keck said before heading onto the field.




He said he tried to get a fly-by, but the field was too close to Highway 20.

The event, held every year about the midpoint of the season, isn’t held to raise money for itself or other groups. There’s nothing more to the event other than to showcase the talents of the best players from Penn Valley’s senior league, featuring all players over 50.

Don’t laugh, either. These guys may be having fun and enjoying icy malt beverage or two, but they’re all business on the field.

One look at the players in their sweat-drenched shirts after the game illustrates that.

Monday showcased two games. Leading off were the 61-and-older crew while the nightcap was saved for the 50-60 crowd. In the opener, the blue team came away with a 13-7 victory while the red team won 12-8 in the nightcap.

Coming off the field after the first game, the red team’s left fielder Joel Guthrie was looking for a cold drink. The game may have been for fun, but the 67-year-old Guthrie ran down a couple pop flies to left that showed two things: First, he was serious. Second, he can still play.

“I grew up playing baseball and fast-pitch softball in my 20s and 30s,” Guthrie said. “Then fast-pitch went kind of out-of-vogue. Slow pitch came along and I’ve been playing ever since.”

Guthrie has played in the Penn Valley league for all 17 of his eligible seasons and has earned a spot on the All-Star squad four times. He currently plays in an over-65 baseball league as well.

“We like to play hard,” Guthrie said. “We’ve got a lot of good guys up here.”

Keeping the mix of fun and competitive edge has never been too difficult according to Guthrie.

“We let everyone play that comes out,” Guthrie said. “Everyone plays at least half the game in the field, and we all bat the whole game. We meld a wide range of talents, and everyone recognizes that. It’s a good group.”

And don’t look at these guys as re-living their youth. Keck looked at it quite differently.

“I’m speaking for myself, but I think we’re out here creating our future, not re-living our past,” Keck said. “Groups from here have gone to the World Senior Games six times and come back with three golds, a silver and two bronzes. We’re playing all over the country.”

NOTES: Outfielder Don Pryor was named MVP of the first game after going 3-for-3 with a walk and four runs scored. … Outfielder Al Bolen earned the MVP honor for the second game after a 3-for-3 performance with 2 RBIs and a double. … Top performers for the 61-plus blue team were Dave Fairchild (3-for-4, three runs, RBI, double), Rich Schmidt (1-for-1, walk, two sacrifices, 4 RBIs), Mike Henning

(3-for-3, 2 RBIs), Dean Girdner (2-for-2, walk) and George Woodle (2-for-3, RBI, double). … Top performers for the 61-plus red team were Bob Hannah (3-for-4), Ken Puckett (2-for-3, RBI), Joel Guthrie (2-for-3, 3 RBIs), Merle Hackett (2-for-3, RBI). … Top performers for the 50-60 red team were Dave Ferry (2-for-3, intentional walk), Tony Clark (2-for-2, walk), 2 RBIs, double), Rick Gross (2-for-2, RBI), Bruce Reinhardt (2-for-3), Jim Knerr (3-for-3) … Top performers for the 50-60 blue team were Bob Hare (2-for-3, triple), Mark Neufeld (2-for-3, 2 RBIs), Jerry Schwarz (3-for-3, RBI), Greg Diaz (3-for-3, RBI), Jerry Hall (2-for-2, sacrifice, RBI), Jim Richards (2-for-2, walk)

ooo

To contact Sports Writer Ross Maak, e-mail rmaak@theunion.com or call 477-4244.


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