According to Senior Softball USA, the largest senior softball association in the country, almost two million older adults currently play slow-pitch softball. Among these numbers is a team of dedicated players at Greenspring, an Erickson Living community in Springfield, Va.
Celebrating its fifteenth year, the Greenspring softball team meets regularly in preparation for the annual Erickson Living softball tournament at Oak Crest, a sister community in Parkville, Md.
For a majority of the team, playing in the tournament provides the unique opportunity to participate in a sport they may not have played in years.
"Rookie" Tom Doshier moved to Greenspring last September and didn't waste any time joining the team.
"I played years ago when I was in my 20s, but playing ball is something I haven't had the opportunity to do in many years," he says. "I learned about the team shortly after moving in. Everyone was very encouraging, so I decided to give it a try. I'm having a great time. It's so nice to get back to hitting a ball and swinging a bat. I didn't realize how much I missed it."
Seizing the day
Like Tom, Judy Sanford is a rookie on this year's team.
"I attended the tournament last year and thought to myself, 'That looks like a lot of fun,'" she says. "I hadn't played since college but decided to give it a try. I'm so glad I did. I'm having a great time. This is a very supportive group."
In preparation for the annual tournament, the team, under the leadership of community member Jim Coulter, begins practicing months before.
During the colder months, the team holds off-season conditioning practices in the Hunters Crossing Conference Center utilizing large foam balls. Once the weather warms up, the team moves to the softball field at nearby Beulah Park in Springfield.
"We hold practices five days a week because we recognize that players aren't available every day," says Jim. "By providing numerous opportunities to practice, players can at least make one or two practices."
Barbara Herriman, one of the most experienced female players on the Greenspring team, is currently a member of two other teams—the local Golden Girls from Vienna, Va., and a tournament team that will be competing at the Senior Olympics in Albuquerque, N.M., this summer.
"I grew up on a farm with three brothers, and my mom was a terrific ball player," she says. "I've always enjoyed playing. Before moving to Greenspring, I played on a church league, but that was almost 30 years ago. It wasn't until I moved here in 2009 and learned about the team that I started playing again. I'm having so much fun. I've gotten to know people I might not otherwise meet."
Most valuable players
Like Barbara, the team's longest-playing members stress that the main objective of the team is fun and fitness. Although they diligently prepare to face tough competition in the tournament, supporting each other and having a good time are the team's top two goals. As a result, players return season after season.
Barbara Kauke, one of the team's big hitters, started playing for the softball team in 2014.
"I hadn't played since middle school," she says. "I was looking for a new activity, something that was a bit of a challenge, and the team fit the bill. What I learned, right away, is this is a team of fun people who support each other and want to have a good time."
"This is my fifteenth year playing on the Greenspring team," says Richard Schmidt. "I really enjoy playing, both because I've always loved playing ball and because of the great group of people who play together."
Infielder Roy O'Connor, a team member for the last ten years, credits both the team members and Jim's leadership for the continued success and growth of the team.
"Not only do we have players returning year after year, but this year we've been fortunate to have a number of new players join our ranks," he says. "We welcome everyone, even those who've never even picked up a bat. There is a place for everyone who wants to have a good time and be a part of a fun, supportive team."