Senior softball teams brave heat to play their best
By Wayne Hinshaw
“Move up in the box.”
“Way to go, Bill.”
“Everybody’s doing good.”
“Run it out, Jeff.”
“I think I pulled something in my leg.”
“Stretch it out.”
“Boy, it is hot.”
Such is the chatter from the bench as the Rowan County Senior Softball Teams hosted their first Carolina Senior Softball League Tournament on Saturday. Rowan now has four softball teams for senior citizens.
The Gentiva Home Health Care team is composed of men 55-60 years of age.
The Godley’s Garden Center team is composed of men 60-65 years of age. There is a men’s team for the age 65 and above and there is a women’s team. Some 70 seniors are enjoying playing slow pitch softball this summer as part of the Senior Games program, according to Phyllis Loflin-Kluttz, Senior Games coordinator.
On this day, the two Rowan teams hosted the Charlotte Blue team, Charlotte White team, the Dirty Dozen team, the Hickory 55 team, Lou’s Royals and Lake Norman.
Each team played three games with the temperature starting at 80 degrees for the 9:30 a.m. games and climbing close to 100 degrees for the 3:45 p.m. games. They had a tent set up providing a light mist of water to help cool the players.
Player Ray Cope cooled in the mist between innings. “I could get used to that,” he said. “It’s like a misty rain.”
Why the interest in softball as a senior citizen?
Jeff Peeler played third base for the Gentiva 55-60 team. “I used to play in my 20s. I was a good pitcher back then,” Peeler said. “I destroyed my leg in an accident. I have a lot of passion for the game. I pulled a hamstring a few weeks ago in our games. Hurting is part of the game.”
“I played baseball at Morehead High in Eden,” said Joe Overby. “Coming out of high school, I tried out for the Cincinnati Reds and they were going to send me to their rookie camp in Florida, but I got hurt. I have been playing slow pitch softball since 1971 and now I am 57 years old. To be honest, softball was the only thing I was ever good at. I really enjoy coming to the ballpark.”
Bill Hathcock didn’t start to play softball until he was 30 years old. He didn’t get to play high school baseball because he didn’t have transportation to the practices.
“I started playing for a church league. Now I play on three teams,” Hathcock said, “I play for Highest Praise Church team in a church league and Loc-Tile in a commercial league, and now the senior team.
“I play three or four games a week. I have pitched for a long time, but I can play any position where they need me.”
Despite both Rowan Senior teams losing their three games, they got better each time out.
“We are improving each game,” said Jim Moysan, the pitcher for the Godley’s Garden Center Team. “It’s our first year playing together and all of us are new to the team. The other teams have played together for several years.”
Sixty-one-year-old Moysan said he has been playing since he was 18 years old. “I always have loved the game. It is my main hobby. We’re not in tip- top shape, but you do the best you can. The most common injury appears to be pulled hamstring muscles.”
Maybe they are in better physical condition than they realize. Between softball games, Moysan and Bill Hathcock pitched horseshoes for 25 minutes with the temperature in the high 90s. Both men have qualified for the Senior Games in Raleigh in horseshoes.