Wood bats, regulation uniforms and a desire to compete against peers are just part of what drives Baltimore Senior Baseball Over 40 League players to lace up their spikes every Sunday morning from April to August for some old-fashioned hardball.
The Towson Recreation Council-sponsored league is the nearest thing these aging boys of summer can find to the real thing, in that the rules — if not their reflexes — are pretty much the same as they have been since players first picked up a bat when they were kids.
Nature has a way of slowing down even the best of players, although these seniors don't concede much to the aging process.
Pitchers still try to overpower hitters and vice versa. Batters hustle down the line in an attempt to leg out hits. Catchers are prepared to gun down a potential base stealer or pounce on a ball chopped in front of the plate for a quick throw to first base.
"It's just a bunch of guys who still want to play," said Eric Shaivitz, 43, as he limbered up his arm on a chilly April morning practice session on Towson High's diamond.
Like many of his White Sox teammates, the physical therapist from Armaugh Village left softball behind to return to his baseball roots.
"It was becoming boring," he said. "I wanted something with a little more strategy involved. Baseball is more of a cerebral game than softball."
First and foremost, hitting a ball with a circumference roughly 25 percent less than that of a softball immediately makes the game more difficult.
Moreover, an overhand baseball pitch requires much more energy than under-handing a softball in slow-pitch.
Regardless, baseball is the game most boys play while growing up — and some just never get over the thrill of engaging in America's pastime.
Members of the eight teams in the Baltimore Senior League are among that group.
They don the official Major League Baseball uniforms of the Orioles, Rangers, White Sox and Athletics in their American League and do the same for the Marlins, Cubs, Cardinals and Nationals in their National League. In addition to Towson High's diamond, the teams also play in Overlea, Reisterstown, Owings Mills and York, Pa.
The league started eight years ago as an outshoot of the Lutherville-Timonium Over 30 league, which will boast 12 teams this season.
"We had all played in the LTRC Over 30 league, but we were getting a little long in the tooth," said Taylor Lucas, the Senior Baseball league's former commissioner. "A lot of younger guys were coming in, so we decided to start our own league."
The league stayed three years at LTRC before moving to TRC, the organization of which Lucas had previously been president.
"It was a perfect fit," he said.
At 57, Lucas is still going strong from a playing perspective. He's primarily a pitcher with a self-described "rubber arm." He's also a softball defector.
"There was no intrigue in (softball) pitching," he said.
His own repertoire on the mound includes a fastball, curve, splitter and a good notion of how to attack opposing hitters.
His splitter, he said, drops at the last second.