Whoever made the statement, “Practice makes perfect,” really must have researched that process. I traveled to Sun Lakes a week early to get ready for the World Series that was held in Las Vegas the last week of September.
Everyday for that week, I must have hit at least 50 balls. By the start of the tournament, my hands were no longer tender or sore. I also practiced outfield play, but when I arrived in Las Vegas, I was informed that my team, the Prescott Scorpions, were missing a number of key players, including their shortstop. When I was asked to play short, my only concerns were, number one, I had last played shortstop as a serious endeavor during my college baseball days over 50 years ago and number two, our regular first baseman was also missing and the Scorpions enlisted a player who last played with the Scorpions five years ago, and he had not even lifted a glove during that absence.
The Scorpions carried 11 players on its World Series roster, with absolutely no subs whatsoever. If anyone got hurt, the Scorpions would have to play with whoever was left – not an encouraging way to start a major tournament.
My extra batting practice paid big dividends, as I went 14 for 18 with five walks. Among those 14 hits were two inside the park homeruns, three triples, six doubles, and three singles. Most of my teammates also hit reasonably well as the Scorpions made it to the quarter-finals.
Scorpians Face Minnesota, California & Hawaii Teams
One of the most emotional victories was against the team that we had never defeated before, the Minnesota Masters. Minnesota was missing from the last few tournaments and most of the Scorpions thought that the Minnesota team had dissolved. In that highly spirited game, at least for me, the Scorpions turned back the Masters 14-8. In that game, I went four for four with two homeruns, a triple and a double.
In the next game, the Scorpions faced the California Connection, a team from Orange County. Usually the Scorpions have had great success against the Connection but in this game, each team took turns leading. Playing shortstop, I committed two errors which helped the Connection, but going into the top of the seventh inning, with two outs, I hit a triple putting the Scorpions up by two.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Connection had the bases loaded with two outs and the number three batter hit a sharp ground ball up the middle. I got to the ball and made a strong throw to the first baseman. Unfortunately, the five-year retired player bobbled the throw enabling one run to score. The Connection’s clean up batter hit a single driving in the two base runners which gave his team a one run win.
Our other loss was also a walk off for the Pride from Hawaii and since the tournament was a double elimination affair, we were done. All in all, with all of our missing players and the tired guys who played as hard as we could, I was encouraged.
New Season Begins in November
In November, the new season begins and even though some of my teammates will be going to a new team from Colorado, I am staying with the Scorpions. We will be getting as many as five new players and we should be quite strong.
The Las Vegas weather was superb with temperatures in the low 80s. If only the same weather conditions could continue through October in Arizona.
My wife, Tricia and I stayed in Warwick until Halloween. Getting back to Arizona in early November was quite nice. The temperatures were in the 80s and it was very pleasant for softball, tennis, golf, and almost anything else.
Our Sun Lake League opens a three season play in November. Each of the three sessions features each team playing 18 games. The end of that one week tournament marks the start of the next session and each session has a player draft. It is possible to be selected on three different teams.
For the first two sessions, I was on the same team. In the first session, our team struggled a little and we were all a little disappointed. In the second session, we won the pennant and after losing the first game of the tournament, we came all the way back to claim the championship.
In the third session, I was chosen by another team. We had a very good team and finished second in the league, but in the championship round, we rolled through to gather that championship as well. What pleased me the most was the team I played for during the first two sessions came in last. I loved both teams I was part of, but I was able to tease some of my former teammates by stating, “Look what happened to you when you lost me and look what happened to my new team!”
Our batting average is really an on-base percentage and getting to base via a hit, walk or error counts. Hitting into a fielder’s choice works against the hitter and any percentage over .600 is really good, especially with 11 defenders and most players 20 or so years younger. For the entire season I hit .641 and during the last championship round, I went five for 14 (which isn’t very good!).
In late November, the Winter Worlds were held in Peoria, AZ and my Prescott Scorpions team with our six new players was eliminated early. Our new players had never played in major tournaments before and it was quite evident they had not. The pressure of playing in a major tournament with teams from 10 different states was a little too much and to be frankly honest, we were bad!
At least I had two good things going for me. I went back to the outfield and I went back to Arizona to be with my closest friends.
The Scorpions next played in the South West Championship Tournament in Las Vegas in April. I was a little concerned that we would continue to play poorly and I was going to regret that I didn’t go with some of my former teammates to the Colorado team.
I was pleasantly surprised with my Scorpion’s play. We finished second and the team that won it all, the California Connection, was losing to us in the semi-finals. We were leading them by a run going into the top of the seventh inning (which is an open inning – you can score as many runs as you can before you make three outs).
I started that inning as a 76-year-old player and by the time the half inning was over, I felt as if I were 85. They scored 17 runs. We came back with eight but that was not nearly enough.
All in all, our new players picked up the level of their play and responded in a manner that was encouraging. There was little nervousness and much more confidence. I hope this carries on as we get ready to travel to Sacramento in late July.
Off to Sacramento
Besides playing softball, tennis and once in a great while golf, I was able to convince Tricia to play some golf. She played tennis about four times a week. It is quite a hard sell to get her to play golf, as she feels she will take up golf when she gets older!
When we weren’t physically active, Tricia and I would attend our two grandchildren’s athletic events. Sam, who is 11, plays on a highly competitive traveling baseball team and Jemma, who is eight, took up volleyball along with her hip-hop dancing.
It is so much fun watching our grandkids and it is just as nerve wracking to watch them perform as it was with our own children (when they were younger).
As great as it might be in Arizona in the winter, it is absolutely wonderful to be back in Warwick!