Playing softball is not easy for people our age. Let’s face it, our reflexes, coordination, strength, speed, endurance, and vision are not what they used to be. Plus, most of us are not in the best shape of our lives.
However, every season about 165 men and women put on their blue or gray and red SaddleBrooke softball uniforms and give it a go on a jewel of a ball field in the southeast corner of the community.
With the 15-week winter season kicking off Jan. 13, we offer 20 helpful tips for players who will be joining us on the diamond for the first time. Following these suggestions could lead to a productive and fun season but we make no promises.
1. Go to batting practice. It’s a 12-inch bright yellow ball tossed gently by the pitcher but if you haven’t swung the bat in a while, you are going to feel like a Little Leaguer attending your first practice. This time dad won’t be there to tell you to swing with your hips.
2. Loosen up before the game. Don’t want to be negative here but half of you are going to pull a muscle running to first base. This is guaranteed. However, a little stretching, jogging, and playing catch in advance might help you make it through the season, extend your softball career, and someday become eligible for our new “Wall of Honor.”
3. Don’t complain about the weather. You’re playing ball outdoors in the winter. Your family and friends back home most certainly are not.
4. In fact, embrace the chilly early morning starts. Science tells us that your brain works better when it’s cold and helps you think clearly. Your spouse will appreciate it.
5. Know the rules. You can’t wear excessive jewelry, don’t wear your hat backward, and one that most likely will never apply to you: no need to run the bases if you hit a home run over the fence.
6. Remember the Code of Conduct. No cursing, smoking, or drinking alcohol, not even in the parking lot. And you are responsible for the behavior of your family members and guests so don’t pretend you don’t know them when they curse the umpire after you are called out looking at strike three.
7. Don’t gripe about the lineup. You’re a rookie so your manager is going to bat you tenth and have you play catcher just like all the other new guys. Look on the bright side, it’s a great opportunity to meet the opposing team when they come to bat.
8. Don’t brag about your batting average. Should you be fortunate enough to start hitting, do remember our scorekeepers are notorious for their generosity. You’re probably not really batting .675 in the non-retirement world.
9. Conversation on the bench when your team is at bat is an important part of the game experience. However, do stay away from politics. You’re bound to offend someone and maybe even your manager who will certainly continue to bat you tenth and play catcher for the remainder of the season.
10. Trade insults. Good natured ribbing is perfectly acceptable and in fact, encouraged. It’s important to let your Wisconsin teammate know that the Packers are going to choke in the playoffs like he just did at bat.
11. Don’t slide. It’s legal but resist. Nothing good comes from it.
12. Don’t knock the courtesy runner rule. Chances are you will probably need one by the second game of the season.
13. Don’t give the umpires a hard time. They are not getting paid; they are your neighbors and they won’t yell at you when you make an error or hit yet another weak grounder to the pitcher. Plus, they can easily find out where you live.
14. High five the opposing team at the end of the game with proper sportsmanship. “Good game, good game” works. “You were lucky” does not.
15. Volunteer. We always need umpires, scorekeepers, scoreboard operators, field maintenance support, and, on game day, people to put out the trash, sweep the dugout, lock up. Just like at home.
16. Support our sponsors. Why go to just any heating and cooling company when there’s Ambient Air or Twin Lake Air. Or any old dentist when there’s Patrick Shaffer. Plus, their support helps make playing SaddleBrooke Senior Softball a bargain.
17. Remember your age. We’re all 40 in our minds but our bodies aren’t. Your glory days are long gone. We want you to come home in the same condition you left the house.
18. Don’t forget why you’re here. It’s the three f’s: fun, friendship, and fitness. No one is getting a trophy. The Washington Nationals already won the World Series.
19. Be thankful. You put on a team uniform, hit a ball, catch (mostly) and throw it, and run the bases. You get to be a kid again for two hours a day with your neighbors and friends. That’s a win right there.
20. And lastly, don’t forget the liability release you signed before playing. It acknowledges that you assume all risk of death as a result of playing and hold us harmless from any claims from your heirs.
Good luck and enjoy your initial season.