GOLDEN — Home plate sits off to the left of the field, away from the catcher. There are two first bases — one for the fielder and another for the runner. After two strikes a batter’s next hit ball must be fair or he’s out. A team can only score five runs in any given inning, except for the seventh when it can score at will. Oh, and there are four outfielders.
Welcome to slow-pitch senior softball.
The force plays at first and home are for protective reasons. After all, these guys are 50 and older. But don’t let that fool you, they’re still athletes at heart. And they take this seriously.
The Colorado Senior Softball Association offers nine levels of competition, including a pair of 70-year-old divisions. Teams stretch from as far west as Evergreen east to Aurora north to Johnstown and south to Castle Rock. Evergreen has a handful of teams in the lower levels, but few teams have had the success the Storm has enjoyed.
Tom Karas, 61, an Evergreen resident for the past 30 years, found out there was an over-50 league and needed a place to play, so he founded the Storm 11 years ago.
“Wednesday morning is sort of like a golf date almost. We block off Wednesday morning because a lot of guys don’t work,” Karas said. “We like to play. We have fun.”
The team — one of Colorado’s best — has the record to back it up. Since 2010, the Evergreen Storm has either won the Colorado Senior Softball Association B1 Division first-half title, second-half title or season-ending tournament five out of nine times, team manager Larry Voorhees said.
Players from Littleton, Highlands Ranch and Castle Rock travel to Evergreen and beyond to play for the Storm. One of those players is Bailey’s Steve Antonczyk.
“We moved out here from Chicago 13 years ago and I played a lot of softball back there,” Antonczyk, 52, said. “I didn’t have a team so I just wandered into the Evergreen Parks District and asked if someone needed players and I got hooked up with these guys.”
Coincidentally, Antonczyk works for Colorado Home Fitness, which, along with Advanced Vision Technologies, is one of the team’s sponsors.
That’s part of the luxury of the Wednesday morning league. A number of the players are either self-employed or they can schedule work around the games.
On this particular Wednesday morning at Tony Grampsas Memorial Sports Complex, Evergreen did something it rarely does —it lost.
Well, technically, it split a doubleheader, but the 18-17 Game 1 defeat to Ace-Hi was uncommon. It had never happened before, Voorhees said. But, in all fairness, his team was playing short-handed. Four players had to cancel prior to the start due to work commitments.
Evergreen even played a player down as Ace-Hi voluntarily offered up a catcher to return the ball to pitcher Karas, but they did not serve as defensive help for plays at the plate.
Evergreen righted the ship in Game 2, winning 12-11.
In all, the Storm will play 28 games during the 2013 regular season — 14 in the first half and 14 in the second — before the season-ending tournament in July.
“Leagues play all the time. Every night they have a league somewhere. All the fields are never empty,” Voorhees said.
And the games, not always but a lot of times, bring in the fans. Even the young ones.
“We get a lot of fans in the stands because all the grandkids are there,” Voorhees said.
Contact Michael Hicks at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.