Golden Seniors Softball:  A game for the ages and ageless

By Ron Roach

 Bob Rogers is a GSSC player and tournament star as well as a long-time sponsor of the Golden Seniors. When he played he was a manager, pitcher and infielder. Lou Coppola describes him as a versatile player. / Photo courtesy of Lou Coppola

Bob Rogers is a GSSC player and tournament star as well as a long-time sponsor of the Golden Seniors. When he played he was a manager, pitcher and infielder. Lou Coppola describes him as a versatile player. / Photo courtesy of Lou Coppola

For more than 30 years, the Golden Seniors Softball Club of Sacramento has been one of the nation’s bedrock organizations for slow-pitch players who have reached the age of 50. The club has about 450 members and provides nearly 420 games from mid-March into September.

Close to 100 of these members like it so much that they play in more than one of the club’s six leagues. For many, there is no such thing as “enough softball.” But there is plenty of room for someone new to the game, or who hasn’t swung a bat in more than a decade. “Hey, it can be like riding a bike. Just get back on and enjoy the ride,” said the club’s president, Tom Sansone. “Softball can really be a game for the ages — and the ageless.”

Playing 22-game schedules, there are three six-team night leagues for players 50 and over at the Sacramento Softball Complex — Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with games at 6:30, 7:45 and 9. Two leagues play on Tuesday mornings, also at the Complex, for players 60 and older. The club’s Monday morning league at Howe Avenue Park is for players at least 70.

Sansone, 65, said playing softball at this stage of his life has been a very satisfying experience. “It gives me incentive to exercise and try to stay in shape. I enjoy the camaraderie. There are a lot of people who are really dedicated to this club. I urge anyone who wants to continue playing softball well beyond their middle-age status to check us out. You’ll be impressed with our quality of play.”  The Elk Grove resident pitches on Tuesday morning teams and is entering his 11th season with the club.

Mel Tennyson joined the club in 2009 when he was 55. He now plays in all three night leagues and serves as the commissioner in charge of the club’s Tuesday night league. He also plays for a nationally ranked traveling tournament team. Mel, a West Sacramento resident who pitches and plays the outfield, said, “I love the game” and the Golden Seniors club has provided opportunity to play with and against people more his own age while being more relaxed and less-competitive than his tournament team. “It keeps me healthy and I enjoy meeting people. I play softball for athletic and social reasons. My advice to anyone thinking of playing ball is to come out, have fun and stay young.”

Anita Kemp, 53, who resides in south Sacramento, joined the club in 2011 and became a fixture at third base, first base or catcher on Tuesday nights. She plays on a couple of coed teams and said she wanted more softball, so a friend suggested she try the Golden Seniors. How has it worked out? She said she has not been disappointed and felt welcomed as a new member. “It’s fun, to be honest with you. My other leagues are real competitive, true 5-women, 5-men coed teams.” The Golden Seniors is “really a fun league.” And when a guy thinks he can hammer a grounder by her at third, she said she takes a great deal of pleasure in her ability to throw him out.

The GSSCS Tuesday night league has about a dozen women spread among six teams. The club would like to attract more women, and Anita said more women would join if they knew about Golden Seniors. The club needs to advertise.” (Note the ad in this newspaper.) “Everyone gets along and gives you a pat on the back. It’s a friendly environment.”

The Wednesday and Thursday night leagues attract more competitive players, many who also play on tournament teams.

Ernie Kidwell is one of 137 current Golden Seniors “life members” who have played at least 15 consecutive years and attained the age of 75 or 10 years and celebrated their 80th birthday. Kidwell, who will turn 81 this year, lives in north Sacramento near Carmichael. He joined the club in 1991. He began playing in the night leagues and for the past decade has been playing Mondays and/or Tuesdays.”Why do I continue to play? Because I just like to play. I like the camaraderie, the fellowship … Softball is a good reason to get up and go somewhere.”

While leagues for the 2013 season are scheduled to conduct drafts in February, the first league games are not scheduled until mid-March. Some leagues may have immediate openings for those wishing to sign up, or players can sign up, come out and play as substitutes or be permanently assigned to teams as roster vacancies occur.

The club’s fees are very reasonable, Sansone said, amounting to less than $5 a game, and include uniform jersey, cap and umpires. And the fees are prorated for players who come aboard later in the season.

The club has a website, www.gsscs.org, where details can be found on how to join. The club’s player agent, Myron Dahl (916 451-2450), can answer questions and provide sign-up forms. Each league plays 22 to 24 games in a season that runs into September and concludes with league championship playoffs and a picnic.

The health and safety of club members is of paramount concern. Anita Kemp said the toughest thing for her was getting used to the base-running rules that are designed to reduce the risk of injury from runner-fielder collisions or from awkward slides into bases. As many men and women join the club not having slid into a base in 20 years, sliding is not allowed.

Besides special base-running rules, members are encouraged to sign up for training in the use of the club’s defibrillators, or AEDs, and to become certified by the Red Cross in CPR. According to doctors, more than one Golden Seniors player is alive today because of this program and staying active on the ball field.

Ron Roach is the editor of GSSC’s ‘Dugout Chatter’ and active player in two leagues. Accompanied photos were taken by Lou Coppola.

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