ANAHEIM : Senior Softball Players Are Still Game

They may not round the bases as fast as their younger counterparts. And maybe their fly balls don’t soar as far. But that doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm of competitors in the Senior Softball Invitational, a tournament sponsored by the city involving 43 teams from California, Arizona and Nevada.

Hosted by the recreation department, the second annual tournament began Thursday and is continuing through Sunday at Yorba Regional and Peralta Canyon parks.

“It keeps them in shape; it sure does,” said manager Vern Kelly, 72, as he watched his Anaheim Pirates play in the 70-plus division.

The players definitely want to win, Kelly said, but sportsmanship counts too. As if to illustrate Kelly’s point, one of the opponents yelled out “nice catch” as a Pirate snagged a fly ball in right field.


Among those watching from the sideline Thursday was Anaheim recreation supervisor Chuck Canada, who said that senior softball is becoming increasingly popular in this country.

“There’s quite a growth,” Canada said. “I think there’s a direct correlation between the population aging and fitness in the senior years being a high priority.”

To accommodate physical limitations of older players, the softball rules have been modified somewhat, Canada said. In the 70-plus division, for instance, there are 11 defensive players instead of nine, and base runners can be substituted freely.

Also, players score by running across a chalk line at home, thus avoiding potential collisions at the plate.

Players in their 70s are “about three steps slower” than they were a decade ago, said Ed Arias, who manages a team, but they’re still “very competitive.”

“A lot of these guys here have played ball about all their lives,” he said. “Now that they’re in their older years, they’re showing what they can do.”

“For being as old as we are, we keep in shape,” Arias said. “We’re doing it more or less for fun, but also for health reasons. All of us are fortunate to be out here playing.”