Will these guys ever grow up?
From April through October, they play up to 100 games a season. Some of them travel all over the United States to square off against top-flight competition. They fight through the aches and pains of a grueling schedule that would kill most men almost half their age.
But most of all, these hearty souls just want to go out and have fun.
The County Senior Softball Association's 50-and-over League, in its fifth year, is gearing up to play host to this weekend's second annual Senior Invitational Tournament at Upton Park.
A total of 23 teams from New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland will square off Friday, Saturday (round-robin play) and Sunday (single-elimination championship round) in the 50, 55 and 60-and-over divisions.
Some players, like Spindler's Roll-Off outfielder and ex-Baltimore Eagles semi-pro football player Walt Gentry, will compete in all three divisions.
"It's just a case of mind over matter," said Gentry, who may play up to 15 games for the entire weekend. "It's good for guys our age to play a lot. It's better than just sitting around."
"People always want to know how we do it," said Our Place assistant coach-player Bill Poland, a member of last year's 50-and-over Senior World Series qualifying team.
"I guess it's because we love to play ball. Any time you have two guys on your team who have had heart bypasses and another who suffered a heart attack while sitting on the bench, you've got to love to play."
So far, these weekday/weekend warriors have played 18 regular-season games in their Monday League, plus another 14 to 18 Thursday Night League matchups.
"It sure is a big change from five years ago," said George Kelch, player-manager of Spindler's and a former gridiron teammate of Gentry. "Back then, there used to be a group of about 24 guys who used to choose up sides andplay each other every game. The next year, we grew to 10 teams. Don Brooks (facilities manager for Upton Park and Joe Cannon Stadium) hashad a lot to do with the expansion and growth of this league."
Defending tournament runner-up Wooden Nickel (12-6 in Monday League, 11-5 in Thursday League) heads the list of county entries. Other localsin the Over-50 bracket include Our Place (12-6, 10-4), Penn Dower (7-11 Monday League), Spindler's (10-8, 7-11), Classics (3-15, 3-15), First Choice (12-6, 11-5) and Betty and Jakes (17-1, 13-3, first placein both leagues).
Spindler's also will field a squad in the five-team 55s, with A.A. County being the lone representative in the four-team 60-and-over field. The top team in each bracket will advance to Senior Olympic qualifying play in Bowie, with final-round action at Towson State University in October.
Regional powers include the Virginia Gentlemen, the 1990 national and regional 55 champions, and theGood Old Boys of Hagerstown, who earlier this year qualified for theSenior World Series in Florida with a second-place finish in a recent Manassas, Va., tournament.
"This is going to be a very tough tournament," said Kelch. "It should be a very exciting weekend of softball. I think we have an outside shot at winning it. If everyone stays healthy, anyone can win it. And with such a short tournament, I'm pretty optimistic about our chances."
"I think we'll do pretty well this time around," said Wooden Nickel manager Bill Criss. "But we're going to have to watch out for Betty and Jakes. They're playing prettywell right now."
Poland said, "I think it'll be up for grabs. Whoever is hot will win it.
"Last year, we averaged 18 runs a game. This year, we have more of a defensive ballclub. There aren't any players on our team that you could single out and call a star. Anyone produces on any given night."
In an effort to welcome all out-of-townteams, the league will conduct a banquet following the first day of play.
"It (the dance) is really nice for the guys from out of town. It gives them something else to do while they're here," said Poland.
"The county is doing a lot for this league, and so has George (Kelch). He's contributed so much time and effort to make this league what it is today."