A Post By: Craig Sean
I play Slow Pitch Old Man Beer League Softball (SPOMBLS). Its like a sport, but without athletes. There are some sports where calling participants “athletes” is debatable: such as NASCAR. But with SPOMBLS, there is no argument.
Sometimes my team will have a sub because one of the older players will have a lingering injury from the previous week (more on injuries below). Usually the team manager will ask around to see if anyone knows someone who can sub. Inevitably someone knows someone who was a college baseball player. The whole team is pumped to have a secret weapon. This former baseball player comes either still in shape, or as an alcoholic who only heard “find your glove” and “beer” when he was asked to play. If he is still in shape he struggles because SPOMBLS isn’t for athletes. Those fast twitch muscles, used to reacting to a 90 MPH fastball, do you no good when you have about 3 seconds from the time the ball leaves the pitchers hand, to when it crosses the plate to determine whether you should swing at the pitch. Stop reading and count to 3… it’s a long time. Usually the athletes pop out to the pitcher or strike out swinging a second before the pitch crosses the plate. The ex-athlete-alcoholics have a different approach. They’re normally about 50-75 lbs above their former playing weight, and only swing for the fences. They can hardly jog and repeatedly pop out to the left fielder. These guys are notorious for losing their cool. They have excuses from “it takes too long for the pitch to get to the plate.” to “I should’ve had one more beer.” In both cases the athlete and ex athlete never come back to play another game.
About the injuries… they’re devastating. When you watch a 65 year old man crumble to the ground with an apparent back injury, your stomach drops as he drops. This man has likely been playing every a summer and a fall league for the last 50 years and this very well could be his last game. Those 100 seasons very well could be coming to an end right now. When a 65 year old has an injury, the injury has a tendency to never go away. This man might have been the best shortstop (most skilled position) back in his day, but has slowly been demoted to pitcher or catcher. These positions require no moving… just underhand throws back and forth for the duration of the 55 minute game. I once watched a pitcher, who was old enough to be my grandfather, collapse after tossing a pitch. Both teams came to the infield and got on one knee as if we were watching him slowly die while we helplessly prayed for his soul. He was on his side, grabbing his back, moaning in pain. A doctor who was on the opposing team came to his side. The doctor suggested he sit out the end of the game. The other older men shed tears knowing that will likely be them someday soon… okay, they didn’t physically cry but I knew they were crying on the inside. If they do come back, they will just be toughing out the injury. They will likely be wearing a large brace that restricts movement to the injured area of the body.
The older players are the only people to sustain injuries, because there aren’t a lot of ways to get injured. The occasional pop fly to the face or a line drive to the neck are about as bad as the other injuries get.
The game is reserved for non athletes or people who are only looking to enjoy the outdoors on a hot summer night. If this is you, try to find a mediocre team. If you find a good team, it will just be a bunch of grumpy old men who will only be talking about how they wouldn’t make the error you just made and they’re twice your age. You might be 50, but they will still say they’re twice your age. If you find yourself on a team that is awful… well, it will be awful. Even though the team won’t care if you make a mistake, it will not be fun losing games by the dreaded 18 run mercy rule. You don’t even get to play for the full time you’ve paid for. People say you should take up golf because you can play until you’re old, but you should really find SPOMBLS.