Over-50 softball will debut this summer

Nearly 100 men have signed up for league with rules to keep things balanced.

Anchorage Daily NewsApril 25, 2012 

Jamie Moyer aside, the idea that 50 is the new 30 isn't a notion born on a ballfield. Even in a game where the pitches are thrown underhanded, age can and does matter.

Which is why nearly 100 guys have already signed up to play the newest game in town -- over-50 softball.

More than 90 men of a certain age have signed up for the Anchorage Sports Association's newest, and oldest, division. So far there are five teams, with room for more if more people sign up.

As Anchorage's average age creeps up, the league is something whose time has come, said ASA softball director Donnie Brooks, who turns 59 in June.

"With most of us, once you got to 40, unless you're a really, really good ballplayer, you were playing against 20-year-olds and it just wasn't fun anymore," he said. "If you have a 50-year-old outfielder and a 20-year-old outfielder, who are you gonna pick?"

The old ballgame will be tweaked for the old ballplayers, with rules like this:

• No plays at the plate. There will be two home plates -- one that a pitcher throws to and another that a runner crosses. For a play at the plate, the catcher stands on the plate used for batting while the runner aims for the other one. If the catcher fields the throw before the runner crosses the other plate, the runner is out. This eliminates tags, potential collisions and the need to slide.

• Unlimited pinch runners. Called "courtesy" runners in softball, they must be on the roster.

• Everybody plays. "If 17 guys show up, we bat at all 17, so it's 100 percent participation," Brooks said.

• No more than five runs per inning, which should limit blowouts and keep things fun for everyone.

Keeping things fun, and trying to keep things balanced, is a goal of the league, Brooks said.

Years ago, Anchorage Sports tried an over-35 league but success was evasive because there was little parity, Brooks said.

"They didn't put any restrictions on it, so you could put together any team you wanted," he said. "At that time I was still playing men's A League and I had eight or nine men's A League guys on my team and we were playing guys who were 60 and 70 and in the E League.

"We have a bunch of rules now where it's really balanced."

After hearing from about 90 men who wanted to play, the association decided to create five teams. Brooks said. Five coaches then drafted players for their teams. Once all the players who were known quantities had been drafted, names of the others went into a hat.

Brooks said plenty of over-50 players remain competitive, but some of them want more from the game than a competitive environment.

"We play to win," he said, "but it's more about who we're playing with and having a good time. That's what 50 is. There's a lot of camaraderie out there. I may pitch one game and then next I may (be the designated hitter). We want everyone playing and having a good time. And as soon as we're done we'll have our beverage and talk about how good we used to be."

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

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