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Softball for the Senior set
Before their inaugural game against Bremerton, coach Reid Hansen offered some sage advice to his fellow Bainbridge Island Senior Center softballers.
Get plenty of rest. Warm up your arms. Remember -- our motto is we may be old, but were slow.
The long-anticipated septuagenarian showdown -- part potluck, part social gathering, part sporting event -- took place Friday at Rotary Field on Bainbridge, a venue where parents and grandparents typically watch their Little Leaguers in action.
But today, it was the seniors from BISC in the spotlight, and grandchildren and their parents were the proud spectators.
I hope we dont get slaughtered by these guys, said Bill Allen, referring to a well-established Bremerton senior softball program that regularly fields enough players for intrasquad games.
The Bainbridge team, while maybe a bit long in the tooth age-wise, might have been still somewhat wet behind the ears when it came to regulation play.
Looking over the lineup sheet for his position, Will Carncross queried, What does C stand for? Centerfield? Im in centerfield?
No, said teammate Ernie Biggs. Its catcher. Youre the catcher.
And dedication to the task at hand may have waned a bit when the fried chicken and pasta and potato salads showed up on the red-checkered tablecloths five minutes before the start of the game.
Can we start snacking yet? asked Carncross, longingly gazing beyond the home team dugout at the overflowing bounty piling up on the picnic tables.
While there were no leaping catches or Ichiro stretches, and as many bright yellow softballs hit the turf as hit leather -- or hit leather, then turf -- the mood was especially jovial.
Not to say that there wasnt a bit of good- natured trash-talking going on amongst competitors.
Looking them over, theyre probably in as bad a shape as we are, said Biggs.
He then added as an aside to his teammates, If you get a chance to throw the bat, aim for his knees, grinning at the Bremerton coach over his shoulder.
With 22 members, the Bainbridge Senior Center team divided into two groups, each playing two innings before rotating out for the next squad.
Packing lots of ice and first aid gear, the team was in grand spirits on the sunny morning.
Even when the Bremerton softball team matched the imposed five-run limit in the top of the first inning, the BISC crew countered with peppy dugout chatter, a rabid group of fans and a little bit of self-deprecating humor.
Attaboy, Mauri, you give em that fast drop ball, yelled Carncross to pitcher Mauri Pelto.
Thats a corked bat! screamed someone from the Bainbridge bleachers after a particularly long Bremerton shot to deep centerfield.
We need to go over there and check ages. I think they might have a couple of ringers, said Jack Fahey. Theyre all in their 50s, and were in our 60s and 70s.
Theyve got two women, to our six, and weve got a couple of men that play like women, joked Hansen.
The volunteer umpire remarked that it just might be the water over there that ultimately made the difference in the contest.
When a Bremerton batter sporting a small hip-holstered oxygen tank legged out a double with alarming speed, the prospect of performance-enhancing substances was bandied about.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, with Bremerton leading the game by a commanding 20-0 score, the BISC players mounted somewhat of a comeback. Hansen crossed the plate to record the first Bainbridge run, which was inspirational enough for the team to rally for three more in the inning.
Bainbridge has come alive! someone in the Bremerton dugout quipped.
But the expenditure of energy to needed to keep racking up runs late in the game just wasnt there for the island seniors.
Bremerton scored three more times in the top of the seventh, and sat down three Bainbridge batters in a row to end the game, 23-4.
Though not on account of the score, the tilt ended up going into extra innings -- it was just so much fun that both teams didnt want to stop playing.
Finally, an additional six outs later, everyone conceded that it was time for a little rest and some picnicing.
After both teams high-fived and began to trickle off the field into the shade, senior Sam Schwartz was already thinking about a future matchup.
Well get them next time.