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“Build it and they will come.” The “it” in that famous (slightly misquoted) line from the 1989 smash baseball film, Field of Dreams, referred to a field, but it applies just as well to senior softball clubs. Just ask Bruce Randall and Glenn Howard of Missoula.
After they started to feel like they were aging out of the +45 slow-pitch softball league in Missoula, they decided to do something about it.
“There’s been quite a bit of interest from people getting up there in age,” said Howard. “This gives us another opportunity for ball players to play the game they love at a less competitive level.”
Howard and Randall go back a long ways as far as senior softball is concerned. They both played in the +45 league on separate teams, but are now on the same +45 team as well as on a +65 traveling tournament team.
“Glenn and I decided we would reach out and talk to some guys and see if they’d be willing to meet and discuss a new approach to senior softball,” said Randall.
That new approach involved creating a draft club for players over 60, and this year is its inaugural season. They hope to draw from the 90-plus players who are eligible.
“It’s taken off in such a remarkable way,” Randall said. “We were able to secure funding from Missoula Bone and Joint and from Ryan & Miller, attorneys—they came on board early and became our primary sponsors to get this thing going.”
A “draft” club means anyone over 60 can sign up, and then the players are divided into teams designed to fairly balance the talent. The emphasis is on having fun and getting playing time, rather than focusing on competition.
“It’s all about fun and laughter and getting to know new people,” Randall said. He added the club will also be opened to women over 50. “They’ll get to play with a bunch of grumpy old men. We’re very excited about it and have worked on this for a while, and we believe it will come to fruition.”
Randall said they’re adopting some senior softball rules, to keep the game fun and enjoyable for everyone.
Pitchers will have a safety screen for protection, which they’ll step behind after they deliver their pitches. The club will also implement the 11-man defensive position, where teams can elect to put an extra person in the infield or outfield.
“We’re following a lot of the national senior softball tournament rules in place across the USA.”
The club will not, however, adopt a “mercy rule,” common with a lot of senior leagues, where a game is called once a team is ahead by 10 or 15 runs.
“We didn’t want that in senior softball. We wanted people to have a chance to compete,” said Randall. “I think that’s healthy for the team because some teams are really, really good while others are just having fun and want to play.”
Instead, Missoula’s +60 games will last seven innings, with a cap on five runs scored per team per inning, regardless of how many outs they have. The last inning, however, will be what’s called an open inning, where teams can score as many runs as they can before getting their third out.
Howard said some players want to play all seven innings, but others just want to play a few innings and get some swings in.
“We want everyone to participate,” said Howard. “We’re not going to be setting up where people are just sitting on the bench for reserve. Everyone who shows up to play ball gets time in the field, and they get to bat.”
According to Randall, some players voluntarily sit out innings to open up opportunities for others to play. “Some just want to socialize and support the team,” he said.
The 10-week season will start Monday, June 5, said Randall. “We’ll be out at the ball park at Fort Missoula on Field 7 at 6 pm. Anyone who shows up and wants to play the game they love is welcome.”
Both Randall and Howard stressed that senior softball is more far-reaching than just hitting and catching a ball.
“There’s a social aspect to this. You get to know the guys you’re playing with,” said Randall. “It’s more of a dynamic than just a game you love to play.”
If you’re interested in swatting a few dingers and reconnecting with the great American pastime, you may reach out to Glenn Howard at (406) 544-0645 or Bruce Randall at 531-4356 for more information. MSN
On July 23 celebrate Gorgeous Grandma day at Paddlehead Field in Missoula. Senior expo + Senior Fun! See page 55 for more detail and get your tickets.