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It may seem like the latest “75 is the new 50” aging fad, but senior softball has been going on in Boise for more than 20 years, and this season will have 24 senior draft league teams, plus 10 competitive tournament teams—that is, full softball teams of 12 players, all over 50.
“We started these leagues to give people a place to go after they turned 50, and maybe a lot of teams don’t want a guy that old on their team,” explains Randy Mansell, President of the Boise Senior Softball Association. Mensell has been playing senior leagues for 17 years. “After starting a 50+ league, we opened a 65+ league, and last year a 70+ league.”
The Monday night league is the most competitive and is open to all 50+ players. There’s also a recreational draft league for players 70+ on Monday nights. Players 60+ can play in the Tuesday night league, and Wednesday night leagues are also recreational draft leagues for players in the 50+ and 65+ divisions.
While the games themselves might involve some competition, those signing up for the BSSA draft leagues get their name “put in a barrel,” and the coaches organize the teams to balance out skill and talent. This gives players a chance to meet people they don’t know, which emphasizes the social aspect of the game.
“A lot of guys retire and think they are too old to play ball,” Mansell says. “I say no, you’re not—now we have a place where the old guys can get together and play.”
According to Mansell, senior leagues are a big deal nationally. “In Vegas over the last few years, roughly 600 teams go there to play in big tournaments in different age brackets,” he says. “It’s a big, big deal—a big business.”
He says last season the BSSA brought in about $28,000 in fees, which they paid to Boise Parks and Rec for using city fields and hiring umpires. He anticipates this year’s season will bring in more than that.
“We cater to a lot of folks,” he says. “And the money that comes to us goes back to the city.”
A Hacker Sport
Mansell says some players are still pretty competitive and play to win, while others are in it just for the fun.
“Come out, enjoy yourself,” he says. “It shouldn’t be frustrating or something you don’t want to get out and do. It should be something you look forward to.”
As Mansell describes it, the senior leagues seem pretty relaxed. “It’s not like baseball, which is elite. Softball is a hacker sport.” But he points out even some pro baseball players turn to softball in their golden years, although none of them play on the Boise teams. But he says Boise doesn’t lack the talent.
“We have guys here in Boise who are as good as anyone in the country, though,” he says.
The focus of draft leagues is on games, rather than practice, says Mansell, but just being able to play regularly can really up your game. “It’s a little like golf. Your swing can actually improve as you age. The more you do it, the better you are.”
Anyone outside of the Boise area who’s interested in joining a senior league should reach out to their local city parks and rec to see whether a 50+, 60+, or 70+ league is available. If not, contact the Boise group and see if they can advise. Chances are, other seniors are also sitting around waiting to get called up off the bench to go hit a few dingers in the community park. ISI
For more information about playing in one of the BSSA leagues, www.boiseseniorsoftball.org.