Ask Eddie Miles about his youth baseball experience and he will have no problem poking fun of himself. Talk to the 58-year-old Catonsville resident about his slow pitch softball career and he will proudly perk up and rattle off stories of great wins on the field, and even better times off it.
That ongoing softball career has spanned more than 40 years with more than 80 teams in the Catonsville, Arbutus, Lansdowne and Baltimore City areas.
His softball accomplishments earned him an induction into the Maryland Slow Pitch Softball Hall of Fame.
He was honored in a ceremony on March 10 at the United Auto Workers Hall with nine outher inductees.
His speech during the event ran so long they had to escort him off the stage to the rousing applause of the entertained crowd, that included four tables of family and co-workers.
The accolades he received during his standout softball career, that began at age 15, was often muted, but appreciated by his teammates, fans and tournament directors who marveled at the middle infielder’s nifty footwork and under-armed quick release on a double play.
His development on the diamond didn’t come from baseball, where he played as a youth in South Baltimore.
“I couldn’t play baseball to save my life, or fast pitch softball,” said Miles, who played for about three years until age 10. “I had coke bottle glasses, greasy hair and I caught poison ivy every year for a month.”
He remembered getting a hit on a dribble that rolled out about two feet in front of the plate and his coach at first base, Earl Summers, told him to take a lead.
“I took a one-foot lead and they picked me off and that ended my career,” Miles said.
Summers went on to be a popular umpire in several quality leagues in Catonsville and Arbutus during the slow pitch heyday of the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
At age 15, Miles and neighborhood friends Jerry Beck and Jerry Copenhaver found out about slow pitch softball and fell in love with it — playing 22 games a week.
“I remember this guy, ‘Mr. Beck (no relation to Jerry), ran this Pacers team and we would practice at Montgomery Wards and he would just hit us ball after ball after ball and practice us relentlessly,” said Miles, noting the Pacers were his first organized team. “By the time I was 18, it seemed like it all came together.”
In 1992, his daughter Sierra was born, and he moved to Catonsville, where he was well-known on the local softball diamonds from playing in leagues with Spirit’s West.
Catonsville resident Johnny Provenza played with and against Miles for several years.
“I remember Eddie was a clutch hitter and he could turn a double play like nobody else,” said Provenza. “He was smooth as could be, whether they put him at second or short.”
During slow pitch softball’s peak, Catonsville and Arbutus had prestigious annual tournaments that brought the top teams together for a weekend.
Although Miles’ teams went under three different sponsors for Catonsville tournament titles they won in 1981, 1983 and 1984, it was basically the same core of players recognized as Spirit’s West.
“When we came out here and played, that was the best,” Miles said. “We played four games on a Sunday (in two leagues) and we’d play in the Catonsville tournament.”
During the 1981 Catonsville tournament, Miles had a hand in 26 double plays turned in 10 games by his championship squad.
In 1983, his squad won the Catonsville tournament again and Miles batted .678 and was named Most Valuable Player.
The following year, they won it and Miles was 13-for-18 with two home runs.
“Playing with Spirits West in Catonsville tournaments were the best, especially with guys like Travis Nunnally and Jerry Beck,” he said. “That’s why you kept playing.”
At age 52, he played for Angle Inn and they won the world title and Miles, an all-tournament selection, got a ring for his efforts, but it wasn’t the same at the local tournament.
“We scored 12 runs in the seventh inning of one game and it was euphoric, but it was nothing like playing all 10 games in the Catonsville heat on those fields and every team hated each other, at least on the field they did.”
Miles, known for being a deadly opposite field hitter, was selected to 15 all-star teams in his career in the Catonsville, Woodlawn and Arbutus areas.
He once got six hits in an inning, when his Smiley’s team erased a 25-run deficit with 35 runs in the fifth inning of a win over the Baltimore Stars in Aberdeen.
“I was the only one who didn’t get a home run.” he chuckled.
In 1987, he was named Most Valuable Player of a Concrete Supply team that won a regional crown in York, Pa. and went to world championships in Dallas where they finished third.
He played for several Double-A and Major Plus teams and traveled all over the country in the 70s and 80’s and continued to do it for over-40 and over-50 teams the following decades.
Through it all, he overcame injuries, that included five knee operations, a ruptured Achilles tendon, two broken elbows and most recently a torn bicep in his throwing arm in 2010 that severely limited his throwing ability.
He currently plays for the over-55 High Street Bucs and pitches and plays middle infield for G.L. Shack’s Shack Ball in the VFW Over-40 Wooden Bat League in Ellicott City.
Is retirement in his future?
“Not if you can get up in the morning and put the stuff on,” he said. “I love the game and you’ve got to get out of the house some way. It’s like you are 20 again — it never changes.”
Miles continues coaching basketball and baseball in the Catonsville leagues, which he has done the past 15 years.
He’s an assistant for the Catonsville Claws 15-18 travel baseball squad that his 18-year-old son Colt plays on.
“I’m more of a teacher, the guy that hit them 100 balls, tells them to stay down on the ball, teaches them how to turn two (double plays) and how to position your body,” he said. “I’ll sit there and do that for two or three hours.”
The same way he learned to play infield defense on the slow pitch softball diamond.