They're 40-plus and ready to play

The Baltimore Sun

The ball came flying off the bat, and outfielder Richard Collinson took off. He raced to make the play but came up a step short, fielding the ball cleanly on one bounce and firing it to the infield. Collinson's play was good for any outfielder - even better for a 57-year-old player.

The Lothian resident takes his best shot at making such plays regularly as a player in the Don Brooks Senior League, a spring-and-summer league comprising five teams of players who just plain still enjoy the game.

Collinson played softball for several years before taking a hiatus and then returning about five years ago. He plays twice a week in the Don Brooks league and also plays on a team based in Harford County that competes in tournaments.

Few hotheads

"It's very competitive, but everybody gets along, and there's not too many hotheads in the game," said Collinson. "They can still play. They're good at it ... and it's a break from everyday work."

Collinson runs a land-surveying and civil engineering business in Calvert County. He drives about an hour to the games, which are played at Randazzo Park in Severn.

The senior softball programs offered by the county Recreation and Parks Department have been popular in Anne Arundel for several years, said Jeff Porter, the facilities superintendent at Randazzo Park and Joe Cannon Stadium, who oversees the senior leagues.

"They get older, but they don't lose their competitive juices," Porter said.

The senior leagues are divided into four age brackets - over-50, over-55, over-60 and over-65.

Pitchers throw long, looping tosses toward home plate from 50 feet away. The catchers eschew protective gear, with their primary purpose being to get the bright yellow ball back to the pitcher. Most hitters swing early and often and the games typically feature plenty of scoring.

The diamond configuration includes two home plates, which sit parallel to each other along the third-base line. To avoid collisions and potential injuries, a base runner heads for the plate on his right, while the catcher fields a throw at the one on the left.

Plenty of players

Nationwide, about 1.5 million over-40 players take part in organized softball, according to the Web site of Senior Softball-USA, a tournament sanctioning body based in Sacramento, Calif. And the number is growing as baby boomers age, making softball the nation's top men's recreational team sport, the association says.

Collinson says the game is still fun, and he does not plan to hang up his glove anytime soon.

"I wouldn't play if I didn't enjoy it," Collinson said.

The senior players might not possess the athleticism of their earlier years, but their desire to compete and play the game well has not wavered, Porter said.

"These guys don't want to just sit around and make pottery," Porter said. "They want to be out on the field, and they want to play."

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