Ballplayer, 75, in his last season on field of dreams

Lineup: Lou Hause, oldest player in a six-team baseball league, says he'll hang up his spikes.

July 04, 2004|By Sarah Merkey | Sarah Merkey,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

This summer is the last that Lou Hause of Glen Arm will put on his Brewers baseball uniform and join his over-40 teammates for leisurely league play in Churchville each Sunday. His retirement is understandable - there comes a time when even the most dedicated players decide it's time to hang up their gear.

At 75, Hause is the oldest member of the team, which also has two of his sons, Mike Hause, 48, of Perryville and Steven Hause, 44, of Pasadena, on the roster. Hause is also the oldest participant in the six-team-league that was formed 10 years ago.

Hause joined the league a year after it was formed at the urging of son Mike, a technician for Ryder Truck Rental. "He said they'd got other old guys," said Hause. "At first I was really terrible."

While Hause coached his sons in youth leagues for more than 15 years. When he took the field for the over-40 team, he said, it was the first time he played the game

"When I went to school, I was student and not an athlete," Hause said. But his childhood was filled with pickup games of softball with friends.

"We would all pitch-in and buy a softball, and by the end it was all rags," Hause said.

Still, baseball was in the family blood. Hause's father was a semipro player and a bullpen catcher for the Orioles in the 1920s.

The first batter in the lineup on Sunday, Hause hit the first pitch to the shortstop.

"I hit the ball," Hause said, "but unfortunately I usually hit it at somebody."

"I admire that Lou has held out this long," said Ron Wamhoff, 45, of Churchville, who has been playing on the team for nine years and managing the scorebook and player substitutions for eight. "He's the spirit behind the team. Next year we're really going to miss him."

Hause insisted that he will not be persuaded to play another year. "There's other things I want to do on Sundays," Hause said.

Hause's interest in classic cars, one which is also shared by his sons, has had to take a back seat since he made the commitment to play baseball. He is in the midst of restoring a 1965 Corvair and Mike is building a 1972 Pro Street Nova.

"This year is his swan song," said Mike, who is a self-described jack of all trades for the Brewers, playing almost every position including pitcher. Hause plays right field most of the time, and Steven , who at one time pitched for Essex Community College, pitches and plays outfield.

Three days each week Hause returns to his roots for a game of softball; but instead of playing with the neighborhood boys, he joins other seniors for over-60 softball sponsored by Parkville Senior Center.

Three years ago, Hause pursued yet another outlet for his fervor for baseball when he competed against 124 other candidates for a chance to be a ballboy for the Orioles.

"There was a thing in the paper, and it said all you needed to do was show up," said Hause. That notice was all the encouragement Hause needed to try out.

The oldest contender in Camden Yards that day, Hause wasn't selected for the job.

Fear of injury is not on Hause's mind. The league has revised the rules so that it is not a contact sport; players can slide, but they can't slide directly into another player.

"Let's face it - we all have to go to work Monday morning," said Mike, who lists a shattered ankle and a dislocated elbow among his injuries from the competitive softball league he played in before he joined over-40 baseball.

Despite the caution, there have been injuries among the 15 Brewers.

"He's in uniform playing, and I'm not," Wamhoff said, pointing to Hause as he watched the Brewers' game Sunday from the dugout because of a pulled calf muscle, "because I'm the one injured."

Hause sat out the first inning of Sunday's seven-inning game, but he intentely watched his teammates, including Mike at pitcher and Steve in center field.

"We'd like to win, but it's nothing earthshaking," said Hause. The April-to-August season will culminate in a single-elimination tournament. The Brewers have won it all once. Last year, they won about half their games, Hause said.

"We're not as good as the big boys," Mike said, referring to the Major League players.

"But we try harder than they do," Steven said.

Hause joins in the good-natured kidding that goes on in the dugout. The Brewers award the facetious "Tommy Tyler Award," named after team member Tom Tyler, 52, of Fallston, to the player who makes the biggest blunder of the game, said Tyler.

"We kid the devil about him," said Hause of Tyler. "But he's very good-natured."

Tyler had some praise for Hause as well.

"When I grow up, I want to be just like Lou," said Tyler with a smile. "No, but really - I bring my little guys to the games," he said of his children.

"It's nice to see that they get to learn some other things that the game's about. It's about respect," he said as he described how pitchers don't throw fastballs to older players.

"It's just about playing," Tyler said. "And it's for everybody."

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