Over the years, I’ve played on many teams, of many different levels; baseball, 16-inch Chicago softball, and 12-inch softball. After 9 years in a 30 and over baseball league, I hung them up, I was turning 50. Shortly thereafter I discovered 1858 Rules Vintage Base Ball and began playing on the Chicago Salmon. Base Ball from the beginning, playing “for the love of the game”. It was a great experience, but I was still missing playing our modern game.
Last summer out of the blue, I saw a post on Facebook about a league called the Chicago Central Men’s Baseball League. It said there was a 30+, 43+, 53+ and a newly formed 60+ division. It was like an answer to a prayer I didn’t even know I had said. I scan their website and figured it was worth a look. In the meantime, my wife and I ran into the wife of one of the pitchers with whom I had played in the 30+ league. Sandi told us that Craig was playing on a 43 and over team, and it sounded like the same league. I was being guided. After speaking with Sandi, I texted an old friend David about the league. David and I have known each other since we each had hair, 40 plus years. We had played together on the 30 and over team as well and I knew he’d be interested and he was.
Now, it’s one thing to be old, but it’s a whole other thing to be old and suck. David and I decided we wanted to see a game or two before contacting the league. Well, life has a disturbing way of getting busy. Each time I was going to head out to a game, something else came up. Finally, after training two clients in Woodridge I came home and saw that there were only two games left. Put up or shut up time. My daughter Colleen encouraged me to go. She said that since I opened my personal training business, I never did anything for myself, just worked. Colleen asked me to text her after the game to let her know what I thought. So off I went.
It was Friday, the 23rd of August’19 that found me driving to Veteran’s Memorial Park in Westmont, Illinois to watch the North Stars play the Yankees. Unfortunately, David couldn’t meet me there, but he told me he trusted my judgement and was going to try and attend the last game that Sunday. He also asked me to text him after the game. As fate had it, David didn’t make the Sunday game.
I arrived at the field just as the game was starting. There were three women in the stands and me. They of course were players’ wives and we talked periodically during the game and answered some of my questions but couldn’t give me very many details.
The game was well played and seemed evenly matched. The standings showed them to be the first and last place teams, but at the end of the seventh inning the score was tied. The Yankees scored in the top of the eighth and while the North Stars were batting in the bottom of the inning, the park district lights went out due to the field closing and the game reverted to the seventh and ended in a tie.
My plan had been to speak with the two managers after the game to express my interest in playing and get some “nuts and bolts” information, but without field lights, everyone was using their cell phones to gather their belongs and it didn’t seem like a good time to disturb them, so I gave a wife from each team my business card to pass along to their husbands and the managers.
While walking back to my car I ran into the two umpires, one of which looked to be in his later 30s and the other looked to be about 15 years old but was probably a college student. I told them they called a good game and began asking a few rule questions which they gladly answered. After a few minutes of speaking the older of the two umps asked me which player was my father, I said that my father had passed away about three and a half years ago. He then asked which player I had come to watch to which I replied that I was checking out the league as a friend and I had interest in playing. Here’s the best part of this exchange for me. The ump said don’t you know you have to be 60 years old to play in the league and I told him I was 61. He said that he though I was about 45! My first thought was, ‘no wonder you’re an umpire, you’re as blind as a bat’, but I didn’t say that, just thanked him.
When I got back to my car I texted both Colleen and David to let them know that the game was well played, that I felt we both would be able to compete and that I was excited about the thought of playing. Both teams had some good players, they seemed to be having a great time on the field and in the dugout. Seemed like a good fit. When I got home Colleen and I talked about it further and I thought that I’d like to do it, but I’d have to pass it by my wife Debbie. Colleen said she’d talk with mom.
About a week went by and I hadn’t heard back from either manager. I checked out the website again and was planning on sending an email to the informational link when I heard from Terry, the manager of the Naperville Yankees. We traded a couple of emails and Terry said to just give him a call. We had a very constructive call of about 45 minutes and the next thing I knew David and I were being added to their roster for the 2020 season. I called David and told him the good news.
This began another leg of my lifelong baseball journey; a new path if you will. In future posts I will tell you about the team and some of the experiences of my “rookie” year in 60 plus wood bat baseball. Thanks for reading!
~ Coach Mike