Se­nior soft­ball a suc­cess across Bal­ti­more metro area

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By BILL GATES bgates@ches­pub.com

As the slo­gan that once graced the home page of the Bal­ti­more Belt­way Se­nior Soft­ball League once read: “Se­niors don’t stop play­ing soft­ball when they get old; they get old when they stopped play­ing soft­ball.”

Or words to that af­fect. The slo­gan doesn’t seem to be on the web­site any longer. Must be an ac­ci­den­tal dele­tion.

Se­nior soft­ball (age 60 and over) thrives in the Bal­ti­more metro area. The afore­men­tioned Bal­ti­more Belt­way League usu­ally has 20 teams in four di­vi­sionsm stretch­ing from Har­ford County to Mont­gomery and Prince George’s County.

“Usu­ally,” be­cause like so many things in 2020, the league was a bit dis­rupted this sea­son. Teams were left on their own to de­cide if they would play dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­demic.

Many teams joined other leagues. Sev­eral BBSSL teams banded to­gether to form “mini-leagues” of their own, just to keep play­ing.

One such league included Dun­dalk, Perry Hall, Bowie, Glen Burnie, Ca­tonsville and Kingsville. Lots of men in their 60’s and 70’s who just didn’t want to start get­ting old.

(In­ci­den­tally, the BBSSL league is co-ed. The women can start play­ing at age 50. Women play­ers are rare, how­ever.)

There are sev­eral rules dif­fer­ences in se­nior soft­ball. Ev­ery­one can have a pinch-run­ner — even the bat­ter (the run­ner lines up be­hind the catcher). It’s slow pitch, and strikes are called if the ball lands on the plate or an ex­ten­sion added to the back of the plate.

Bat­ters start with the count 1-1.There are no plays at the plate; if the ball beats the run­ner to the catcher, the run­ner is out.

Each team has four in­field­ers and four out­field­ers. The max­i­mum num­ber of runs a team can score in an in­ning is five — un­til the sev­enth in­ning, of course.

In the BBSSL, teams play dou­ble­head­ers on Mon­day nd Wed­nes­day morn­ings start­ing at 10. Smoe rules — like the 1-1 count — are in­tended to get the games mov­ing quickly.

(An­other BBSSL rule: games are post­poned if the tem­per­a­ture at game time is 98 de­grees or higher.)

The Bal­ti­more Belt­way League (then called the Bal­ti­more County Se­nior League) started in 1986 af­ter its pre­de­ces­sor, MARVA (a Mary­land-Virginia league) folded mainly due to traf­fic con­cerns.

Four teams moved from MARVA to the new league: Dun­dalk, Green­belt, Howard County (now the Old Lin­ers) and Mont­gomery County.

Other teams were Ca­tonsville and Parkville.

Back then the teams played nine-in­ning games, with no um­pires (and no balls or strikes called) and a max­i­mum of 10 runs an in­ning.

The Mont­gomery team dropped out in 1990, and a sec­ond Howard County team (Howard Reds) was added.

The league added and dropped teams over the decades un­til ar­riv­ing at its cur­rent 20 teams. The league was in­ducted into the Mary­land Slow-Pitch Soft­ball Hall of Fame in 2013.

Teams usu­ally play a 44game sched­ule start­ing the third week of April (this year the teams that de­cided to play started in July) and plays through the end of Au­gust.

That in­cludes a dou­blee­l­im­i­na­tion post­sea­son tour­na­ment for each di­vi­sion (A, B, C, and D).

The five teams in Di­vi­sion A are con­sid­ered to be the strong­est teams: Howard Reds, Old Lin­ers, Car­roll Gray, Howard Shock­ers and Dun­dalk.

The Howard Reds have owned the di­vi­sion ti­tle the past sev­eral years. Dun­dalk set a league record in 2014, be­com­ing the first team in league his­tory to fin­ish the sea­son un­beaten (49-0).

(For those won­der­ing: there have been no re­ports of COVID-19 in­fec­tions among the play­ers of the teams in the “mini-league where Dun­dalk plays.)

PHOTO BY BILL GATES

De­spite the COVID-19 pan­demic, se­nior soft­ball teams like Dun­dalk and Perry Hall con­tinue to play.

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