Updated: May 28, 2020
AAC Senior softball players “antsy” or “apprehensive”
The players of the Anne Arundel Senior Softball Association were supposed to start playing ball April 24, but because of the coronavirus pandemic the season will likely be postponed for weeks at least. Association president Mike Christ said the feedback he was getting from players seemed to come in two categories: “antsy” to hit the diamond, or “apprehensive” to play ball.
“(It’s) looking good, except for this situation we're in right now,” Christ said. ”We were all ready to get things geared up, and then this just kind of jumped in the way. (Some) people are antsy--want to go out there right now and they don't care. And other people are very apprehensive. We'll wait till things settle down. We’re just going to play it by ear.”
The Anne Arundel Senior Softball Association, now in its 27th year, is a men’s county recreational league made up of two age groups of players: 50-plus and 60-plus. Teams and players fluctuate, but there are twelve teams. The half dozen teams with the 60-plus bracket play Tuesday nights. They have 15 players per team planned this season. The 50-plus bracket plays Wednesday nights. The league is looking for new players too.
Commissioner Mike West, said that he is hoping that in late May, they may be able to hit the field to play. He said he has had players calling him every day asking when the season might begin.
“I think the thing we miss the most is just going out there and playing,” he said. “A lot of it is just the camaraderie—to get out there and get with the guys. As you get a little bit older you try to do things that can keep you young and keep you in shape.”
What residents might not know about rec softball is that it can be expensive.
The county charges the league $1200 per team to play, West said. The teams also have to pay an umpire at $35 a game and as well as find a way to pay for hats and shirts.
One of the main ways to raise funds is to find sponsors for the teams. The sponsors pay for the hats and shirts. In return they get the name of their business on the uniforms and, if it’s a restaurant or bar, the team would often patronize the business after the game.
“We have to go knock on doors, and talk to different people, and find somebody that will do it,” West said. “So we've had real good luck this year.”
He said most of the teams had found sponsors before the season was turned upside down from the pandemic. Another challenge the league has is public awareness.
“You know you talk to people, they say ‘I didn’t even know that we had a league,’” West said.
The league commissioner has taken an active part in trying to remedy that problem.
An April article in the Severna Park Voice garnered the league a pair of new recruits. On top of that, West said he posts upwards of 100 promotional paper fliers in bars, restaurants and gyms in the area. Finding enough players is a constant issue. Like any sport there is attrition of players from injury as seasons progress. With senior leagues though, that trend may be a little more pronounced.
“We do struggle sometimes,” said Mike Christ, association president. “Especially as we go late in the season. We're dropping off all the time. You know, you get injuries and vacation-travel type things get in the way.”
On the bright side the league has figured out a way to keep each season fresh and competitive. The NFL isn’t the only league that has a draft. So does the Anne Arundel county senior rec league.
Players are rated on different skill sets, and each year the teams have new players.
“We have six managers,” Christ said. “Each manager has an assistant manager. Those two stay together each year.(If you) played in the league for five years, you could be on five different teams. It helps keep it competitive to where one team doesn't gain advantage over the other.”
There is also another advantage to the draft that West commented on.
“Over the years I've probably played with everybody at least once,” he said. “It's competitive, but it becomes more of a friendship thing. Last year the guy was one of your teammates. This year he’s your competition. But next year he might be on your team again.”
Like all athletes, players can draw inspiration for each other. West expressed how impressed he was with some of the 80-something players he’s watched. The oldest player they have had, he recalled was 90. This year’s league has an 86-year-old player.
“These guys are good ball players,” he said. “They can still play it’s amazing to watch these guys. It's funny because every year we were bringing in new young guys and they're just blown away these guy's are playing (in their 80's).”
As spring moves slowly closer to summer, players know their season may be abbreviated when it does finally arrive. Whether they’re antsy or apprehensive, they are all athletes. If the fields are open to softball again in several weeks, some of them may find it hard not to answer the call.
“I’ve always played ball,” Christ said. “And I just love the game--the competition and the camaraderie. teammates. It's, you know, it's great. I love being around the guys, you know? Especially since we're senior ballplayers, we’re grateful for the fact that we still can play. It just brings you back to your childhood.”
If you would like to learn more about playing, contact West at 410-271-2446.