For more than 26 years, softball has been a staple of my summer. I’ve run teams for most of that time, and we’ve had a pretty good run of success. We’ve competed in some pretty good leagues and always tried to be competitive.
We also tried to keep the main core of players together. For the most part, we’ve been successful with that. A few of us have played together for more than 15 years. Others have been there 8-10. We’ve done well with it in regard to staying together and being successful.
But as they say about all good things …
A funny thing about sports like softball – when you get older, it becomes harder to do what you once did. Ask my 60-year-old pitcher who has played with me for 18-plus years. Ask some of the other guys who have stepped away from the game in recent years. It’s not easy, that’s for sure. Families, other interests, time, work etc. all play a part in this.
Too, though the enjoyment of playing is still there, other parts are not. The competition as it once was in the league we play in isn’t what it used to be. Basically, if we had stayed, there would have been us and another at the top (the same teams who have been there the past few years) as one or two others were opting to drop out. That meant a five- or six-team league with a large gap in the quality of the teams.
And yes, I say that with confidence. The teams have had chances over the years to be at a higher level and they aren’t. It’s nothing against them, but it’s just not fun when you wallop people over and over. And though some may argue that they can compete with the top teams, I let records and scores over the years solidify my case.
Last year, we went into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed. We faced our rivals in the final and they had entered unbeaten. We won two out of three to win our second straight championship and fourth in six years. That series last year was fun, heated, and competitive. The win in the end was pure elation. We enjoyed and celebrated.
But it wouldn’t be the same this year as, unless another team or two made a late push to get in, it would be almost a foregone conclusion which teams would play in the final.
So, it was time to step away.
A group of us are going to head to the next step in our softball lives – a local over-35 league. It’s one day a week and is set up for the older guys (no bunt/steal, double home plate etc.), though it’s pretty competitive is as many older guys from the former league play on teams there.
The one league is going to continue (at least through this year). I know some of my guys are going to play in it and I’m sure I’ll stop over to watch a game or two throughout the year. But sometimes one has to move on.
It’s funny, too. When I made the decision the other night, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. The past few years I’d kept going for some reasons that weren’t just personal – such as making sure some of the younger guys had a place to play etc. I don’t regret it, but once I made the decision, I knew it was the right one. Several of our core guys were going to be stopping this year as well, so it made sense.
There were some great memories with this team. In fact, for the past 26-plus years, the memories have been great. I’m not sure how many more years I have in me, but this is the right path for me to go. I look forward to the new challenge and such and can’t wait to see what the league brings. No matter if we finish first or fourth or whatever, it will be a fun time and challenge.
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