Month: July 2023

End of season happenings

  • Juniors – Playoff season begins Aug 1st; Ends Aug 10th
  • Seniors – Still in final weeks of regular season
  • ALL GAMES: watch the Microsite (Yellow button) for dates/times. (Note: For tournament games, the site will show one team as home and the other as a visitor, but that decision will be made by a coin flip before each game.)
  • Exhibition Game Recap
  • Survey Results
  • Earn bucks on Aug. 4 (The Byers staff needs scorekeepers and public address announcers Friday, Aug. 4, for a men’s tournament at the complex. These are paid positions. This also is a chance to have front-row, comfortable seats for some high-quality softball games. It’s great to get involved with events like this. Last August, Dick Helfman signed up, figuring he could help out at this tournament. He had so fun that he stayed the entire weekend. If this is something you would like to try, contact Gary Duddleson at 574-360-9839.

MSSL Player Survey

We’ve all heard people say “nobody wants pitching screens” or “nobody likes the home run fences” or whatever. We have numbers now. Mark Witkowski has tabulated the responses to our league survey and we provide his analysis here. It will be up to next year’s commissioners to decide what to do with these numbers. The main goal has been to involve more people in the decision-making and to provide actual data on the issues. Here is Mark’s report:

Thanks for participating in our recent survey. We believe that the quantity of responses
represents a fair sample size for opinions about our league operations. The results,
while not binding, will enable future commissioners to structure league rules.
Three categories of ballots have been summarized: “Seniors,” “Juniors” and those
participating in “Both” leagues have expressed their opinions.
Over 50% of our individual players returned their ballots and a summary of the results is
as follows:

MOVING BACK TO MISHAWAKA

An overwhelming 89% of respondents voted “No” and the result was consistent across all three player categories.

ORGANIZE LEAGUE AS 501(c)9

67% of respondents voted “Yes” and the result was consistent across all three player categories. However, note that 20% of respondents did not provide an answer to this question.

PORTABLE FENCES

60% of respondents voted “Yes” to continue the use of portable fences. While “Juniors” and “Both” player categories were evenly split, the “Seniors” voted overwhelmingly (80%).in favor of retaining them.

SENIOR PITCHING SCREENS

The results among “Seniors” respondents were almost an even split with 53% voting “No” to their use. Qualifying notes regarding the first time a screen is hit being considered only a “dead ball” were included on some ballots.

SENIOR GAMES AT 5:30

65% of “Seniors” and “Both” respondents voted “No”. While the “Both” player category voted evenly, the “Seniors” player category voted overwhelmingly “No” (80%) regarding this issue.

JUNIOR USE OF COMPOSITE BATS

This question elicited opposite results between the “Juniors” player category (71% in favor) and the “Both” player category (74% opposed), resulting in an even 50/50 split regarding this issue.

JUNIORS LOWERING AGE TO 50

54% of respondents voted “Yes” with a split between player categories (“Juniors” at 67% in favor and “Both” at 60% opposed).

JUNIOR DOUBLEHEADERS

55% of respondents voted “Yes” in favor of scheduling doubleheaders with a split between player categories (“Juniors” at 75% in favor and “Both” at 65% opposed).


Clearly it will be difficult to satisfy everyone on some issues but we at least have a clear
idea of where our player categories stand on the issues.
Thanks again for your participation and feedback.

Exhibition Games Recap

On July 27th some of our Michiana Senior Softball League players took on players from the Mid-America Senior Softball League at Normain Field in Mishawaka. The games were great, but the real treat July 26 was a chance for all of us to see old friends and former team mates.

Senior Game Recap:

Our seniors, coached by Gary Marcus, defeated theirs, 20-16. A full story and photo is available at Gary’s website

Junior Game Recap:

Our juniors, coached by Mike Fair, battled the Mishawakans to a 20-20 tie. As the junior game prepared for extra innings, lightning crackled across the sky. With a 30-minute delay in the offing, it was decided to declare the game over, and both teams went home happy. Mike provided highlights for a report on the junior game for our Facebook page. For those of you who don’t use Facebook, this is how that report went:

Our junior division contingent battled for five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to grab a 20-20 tie against an all-star squad from the Mishawaka softball league.

Faron Lubbers led all batters, going four-for-four with two big home runs, Tod Moorhead was three for four with a homer, as was Joe Gambill. Other batting leaders were Bob White with three hits, Adam Kroemer with two hits and a home run, and Rodney Smith with a home run.

It was a slugfest, in part because of a strong breeze going straight out to centerfield, especially in the later innings.

When the five-run rally concluded, players began preparing for an eighth inning. A large bolt of lightning charged across the sky to the north of the field. Rather than wait out a 30-minute delay, managers agreed to a 20-20 tie.

It was an appropriate ending to a hard-fought game between old friends.

“I was very proud of all the guys,” said Mike Fair, who organized the game. “They played their hearts off and represented the South Bend League very professionally!

“Thanks to all the guys for participating and the great support we had from the fans! Also, thank you Alan Nutting for helping coach both teams!”

At times, 50 or more spectators lined the fences at Normain Park. It truly was a nice night to watch a game and to remember good times together.


There are good reasons to keep these two leagues separate now. But there also may be opportunities for us to work together informally. A couple ideas that have been mentioned include having a combined fall league and having a morning softball activity for the 70-plus crowd, based mostly on batting without fielding or base-running.

These are things we can do. But they will take someone with enough interest to organize and carry out these programs. That’s a reason we should thank, again, Mike Fair and Mishawaka’s Chuck Comer, for putting together the July 26 exhibition. We all benefit when our people turn ideas into action.

Junior Tournament begins Tuesday, Aug 1st

Play-off Schedule – Juniors

The regular season finished Thursday, July 27, which sets the seeding for our tournament. PowerHouse earned the top spot with a 20-4 record. Putt-Putt is the second seed at 13-11, followed by No. 3 Bowlers Country Club (10-14), No. 4 Palmers Funeral Homes (9-15) and No. 5 Holy Smokes Pizza (8-16).

Our Microsite will be kept up-to-date during the tournament, but only for the next day’s block of games. Also, the site will show one team as home and the other as a visitor, but that decision will be made by a coin flip before each game.

Aug. 1st

6:30 (Game 1): Bowlers Country Club vs. Palmer Funeral Homes – Green Diamond

6:30 (Game 2): Putt-Putt vs. Holy Smokes Pizza – Yellow Field

7:30 (Game 3): Winner from Game 1 vs. PowerHouse – Yellow Field

Aug. 3rd

6:30 (Game 4): Winner from Game 2 vs. Winner from Game 3 – Yellow Diamond.

6:30 (Game 5): Loser from Game 1 vs. Loser from Game 2 – West Diamond.

7:30 (Game 6): Loser from Game 3 vs. Winner from Game 5 – Yellow Diamond.

(By the end of this day, two teams will be eliminated.)

Aug. 8th

7:30 (Game 7): Loser from Game 4 vs. Winner from Game 6 – Yellow Field

(This match eliminates a third team.)

Aug 10th

Championship day: Details of that will be announced soon. The winners bracket team, the winner of Game 4, will play the losers bracket representative, the winner of Game 7, at 6:30. If the losers bracket team wins, it will force a second final game at 7:30. The winner will be our champion.

Rescheduled games – status….

Keep an eye on the senior division schedule for changes (use the yellow link at the right). We’ve tried to accommodate make-up games where we could squeeze some in between now and beginning of tournaments. Disregard, therefore, any prior printed schedule you may have been using.

July 17 update

Survey Status

Most of us received survey forms last week. The goal is to involve as many people as possible in some of the decisions our commissioners make. If you play in just one division, you should have received a form marked “Juniors only” or “Seniors only.” If you play in both divisions, you should have received one marked “Both divisions.” Please turn those in to your manager this week. Mark Witkowski will collect them so we can compile the results.

Play-off Schedule – Juniors

In the junior division, the final day of the regular season is Thursday, July 27. On the next Tuesday, Aug. 1, the double-elimination tournament will begin.

On Aug. 1, in Game 1, the third and fourth seeds will play at 6:30, as will the second and fifth seeds in Game 2. The winner of Game 1 will meet the first seed at 7:30 in Game 3.

On Aug. 3, in Game 4, the winners of Games 2 and 3 will play at 6:30. Also at 6:30 matchup, in Game 5, the losers of Games 1 and 2 will play. At 7:30, in Game 6, the loser of Game 3 will play the winner of Game 5. By the end of this day, two teams will be eliminated.

On Aug. 8, in Game 7, the loser of Game 4 will play the winner of Game 6 at 7:30. That eliminates a third team.

August 10 will be our championship day. The winners bracket team, the winner of Game 4, will play the losers bracket representative, the winner of Game 7, at 6:30. If the losers bracket team wins, it will force a second final game at 7:30. The winner will be our champion.

Play-off Schedule – Seniors

In the senior division, the regular season ends on August 8. We have decided on a four-team double-elimination format. The fourth- and fifth-place teams will meet in a play-in game at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 8 to decide which team will be the fourth seed.

The tournament begins Aug. 15 with the first and fourth teams in Game 1 and the second and third seeds in Game 2 at 5 p.m. At 6:30, the winners of Games 1 and 2 meet in Game 3 while the losers of Games 1 and 2 meet in Game 4.

On Aug. 17, in Game 5, the winner of Game 4 will play the loser of Game 3 at 6:30 to determine the losers bracket representative.

August 22 is the championship day. In Game 6, the winners bracket team plays the losers bracket team at 6 p.m. If the losers bracket team, a Game 7 will follow.

Home Run Derby

Rain forced the postponement of our annual Home Run Derby. The new date is Wednesday, Aug. 9, at the IUSB field at South Bend’s Memorial Park.

               On-site registration will begin at 6 p.m. with the competition starting at 6:30. Our goal is to complete the contest in four rounds. The first elimination will be of players who fail to hit a home run in 10 tries. The second round will require two home runs in six swings. In the third round, we will select a final three with the most home runs in six swings.

               In the final round, batters will get one swing to hit a home run to keep themselves in the running. A champion will be declared when only one batter hits a home run and the other one or two do not.

The on-site entry fee is $10. Advance registration is $8, payable to Ken Bradford on Aug. 8 or before. Batters will receive a hot dog and an entry into a 50-50 drawing. Spectators can pay $5 for a hot dog and a drawing ticket. Additional tickets will be $2.

               We hope for good weather and a nice crowd.

Exhibition Game against MAL

Mike Fair has done the work – raising funds and choosing teams – for two exhibition games against an all-star team from the Mishawaka league on Wednesday, July 26, at Normain Park.

Mike’s teams include players who are among the best in our two divisions. Mike is managing the junior team with Gary Marcus managing the seniors and Al Nutting helping with coaching.

The rosters are Farron Lubbers, Joe Gambill, Adam Kroemer, Jose DeLeon, Bob White, Mike Fair, Tod Moorhead, Derek Dieter, Rodney Smith, Dan Murphey, Art Krop and Dale Coleman for the juniors, and Farron Lubbers, Bob White, Tod Moorhead, Derek Dieter, Bob Knight, Don Torok, Gary Duddleson, Dennis Hartsell, Johnny Albers, Jimmy Arnett, Billy Schell and Dale Coleman for the seniors.

Most likely, you have friends and teammates on those two squads. Quite likely, you’ll see familiar faces on the Mishawaka team as well. We hope it’s like a good family reunion.

This isn’t really a Michiana Senior Softball League event. These are Mike’s teams and they’re backed by money he’s raised. We’re grateful for his initiative. Without guys like Mike, events like this will not be possible.

Please consider attending these games and cheering for our guys. The seniors start at 6 with the juniors scheduled at 7:30. If this succeeds, we may be able to add it to our budget for future seasons and involve more people.

A final word… speaking as an ump…

Part of my nature as a player has been to argue with umpires when a call seems wrong. Since putting myself in his shoes I’ve stopped doing that. All umpires make mistakes, just as I’ve made outs as a batter, dropped balls in the field and missed strike zones as a pitcher. I try to forget my errors and move on, and we all need to let umpires do the same.

Rarely does one call affect a game’s final outcome and even more rarely does one game’s outcome affect the lives of those involved. In the end, almost no one will remember the result, but everyone will remember if I’ve lost my temper and treated others badly.

In one-ump leagues, some plays are almost impossible to call. For example, if runners are on first and third with a deep fly to left field, we watch the ball touch the left-fielder’s glove and the third-base runner’s foot leave the bag. If the runner on first base is tagging up and leaves early, most likely we aren’t going to see it. Anyone knowing this can cheat. If you have integrity and want the respect of others, you won’t.

Another tough call is on a sweeping tag of a runner in the baseline. Often, if the runner is behind the fielder when the tag is made, the umpire’s view is screened from the play. Unless there is a physical reaction – the runner is knocked off-stride or screams in pain – the ump may not know for certain that the tag was made. It’s a judgment based on available evidence.

 What we can do as players is to encourage umpires to work harder. On a close call, it’s fair to ask me if I was in a good position to see the play. It’s a reminder that I need to get out from behind home plate and to work a little harder for my $27.

But if I can say, as an umpire, this is where I was, this is what I saw and this is what I called, that should end the discussion.

Two teams come to these fields to play softball, not to watch two men argue.

Michiana Senior Softball newsletter

        We hope you’ve been resting and enjoying the week away from softball. It’s a good time to look back on what we’ve done so far and to look ahead to the end of our season and beyond.

Standings

        We’re closer to the end of the season than you might think, particularly in the junior division. We have a 24-game schedule there and are less than four weeks away from starting the double-elimination tournament.

         If you haven’t been checking the standings, they’re easy to follow these days. Just come to this site and click on the link.

         The juniors have PowerHouse Electric at 12-4, Putt-Putt at 9-7, Palmer Funeral Homes at 8-9, Holy Smokes Pizza at 7-11, and Bowlers Country Club at 6-11. That gives PowerHouse a three-game lead with eight games to go. A team to watch might be Holy Smokes, winners of five straight.

         The seniors will continue league play two weeks longer than the juniors to complete a 19-game schedule. The current leaders are Prep & Polish at 9-2. Wesolowski Insurance is 8-4, followed by OC Hardware at 5-7, Unity Gardens at 4-8 and South Bend Brew Werks at 4-9. Wesolowski has a five-game win streak.

Schedules

          We’ve had to do some adjusting because of the rainouts on June 13 and the smokeout on June 27. For the juniors, that has meant extending the regular season an extra date, which pushes the tournament back as well. The simplest way to look at it is that the June 27 games all were moved to July 27.

For seniors, those smokeout games have to be canceled. We are squeezed too close to Labor Day with our tournament to do much rescheduling.

Our online schedule is kept up to date. Paper schedules distributed early in the season are not. Please contact your team managers or us if you have questions about the revisions.

The junior tournament will begin Aug. 1 with the championship game or games on Aug. 10. The senior tournament will begin Aug. 15 with the championship on Aug. 22. Both are in a double-elimination format. To make the senior bracket work, though, the fourth- and fifth-place teams will have a one-game play-in to fill the final spot on a four-team bracket.

Home run derby

We’re hoping for a big turnout Wednesday, July 12, for the annual home run derby. It’ll be on the IUSB diamond at Memorial Park at 6:30. The home run fences are just 225 or so feet there. We use hotter bats and balls, which make it possible for many more of us to be competitive.

Last year’s champion was Dan Murphey, with Adam Kroemer and Xavier Creary as runners-up. We charge $10 a person to compete, or $5 for spectators. Every ticket gets you entered into a 50-50 drawing. We’re also working on getting a vendor for hotdogs. It might be a good idea to bring a canvas chair and a cooler for socializing afterward.

Fall ball and all-stars

Adam Kroemer is collecting names of players interested in having a fall league. If we have enough, we hope to play at the Byers Complex.

Mike Fair is working with Chuck Comer of the Mishawaka league on putting together all-star games on Wednesday, July 26. In addition, they hope to have our league champions play against their league champions on Wednesday, August 23. If you’re interested in details, contact Mike.

Commissioners

With this season nearing its end, it is time to choose the people who will lead us in 2024. If you have some ideas and energy you would like to devote to our league, please let Ken Bradford know. Typically, commissioners serve a three-year term, meet three or four times per year and help keep the league running smoothly. It’s a great way to get to know more people in the league.

Referendum

Another step in our preparations for 2024 will include a league-wide referendum on a half-dozen topics. The goal is to let more people into the decision-making process as we continue to move forward.

The votes will be non-binding. The commissioners need to be able to adjust to whatever surprises occur. Still, it’s important to know whether the home run fences, doubleheaders and 5 p.m. starts have been good for the league or not.

We’re hoping to have meetings about these topics in the next two weeks. In the meantime, you should know the topics we’ll be asking about and some of the reasons we’re asking.

Should we explore moving the league back to Mishawaka?

PROS: If you miss old teammates from our league, we could reunite with them. Plans are in the works for a huge athletic complex near Juday Creek Golf Course. At this point, it’s unclear whether the four planned girls fast-pitch softball diamonds would be available for men’s slow-pitch after 2024, but it’s a possibility.

CONS: The South Bend complex has plenty of space and has treated us well. If the league resumes growth and needs room for 10 teams per division, the Byers complex has five diamonds, all in one place. Byers also provides consistent field maintenance, a concession stand, clean restrooms, ample parking and a website that shows updates to our schedules and standings. We may have fond memories of Henry Frank Park, but we shouldn’t forget the brambles, poison ivy and mosquitoes when we retrieve foul balls; the trees overhanging the outfield fence; and the sun blinding the left fielders and third basemen.

Should we organize our league as a 501 (c) 7?

PROS: By organizing, we would have consistent by-laws that would allow us to function as a non-profit club. That opens the door to larger donors who may be able to deduct their contributions from their income tax. Under our current structure, we have no official standing. If a group decides to leave the league and demands a share of our treasury, we may end up in a legal mess. We cannot hire an attorney to represent us. We are individuals, not a formal body.

CONS: Someone has to fill out the paperwork. Someone else will have to keep it up to date. There’s an annual fee of about $30.

Should we continue to use portable fences?

PROS: Over a season, about 13 percent of our players hit over-the-fence home runs, which add to the excitement of our games. Outfielders have less far to run if balls are driven into the gaps.

CONS: The fences often hold slower players to singles on hits that could be doubles or triples on 300-foot fields. The fences require manpower to put up and take down – three people working two hours at $15 per hour every Tuesday and Thursday. Outfielders occasionally run into the fences and knock them down, or a strong wind blows them down. Umpires have trouble determining whether a ball cleared the fence for a home run or bounced over the fence.

Juniors only: Should all players be eligible for composite bats?

PROS: It will be easier for players to find bats they like. Players who play in both divisions won’t have to switch from composites to double-walls. It can seem odd that batters in the senior division are using hotter bats when fielders are less able to protect themselves from hard-hit balls.

CONS: It may seem dangerous for pitchers and fielders in over-52 leagues to be fielding higher-speed balls hit by 52-year-olds.

Juniors only: Should we lower the minimum age for our league from 52 to 50?

PROS: As we seek to keep our league growing, we likely could add another half-dozen or so players. The sooner we attract players, the more likely we are to create long-term relationships with them.

CONS: Experience has told us that 50-year-olds still may have too much youth on their side. We already have a tradition of lowering the age limit for players who have mobility issues, so that may be enough flexibility.

Juniors only: Should we schedule doubleheaders in the junior division?

PROS: Doubleheaders make it more worthwhile for players who drive in from longer distances. If we continue as a five-team league, doubleheaders make it possible to schedule a 24-game season in 10 weeks. Without doubleheaders, one team will have to have a bye on each game night, which means it will take 15 full weeks without rainouts – May 8 to Aug. 14 – to complete a regular season. A double-elimination tournament would end Aug. 28 or later.

CONS: Half our players also play in the senior division, so a junior doubleheader actually could be a tripleheader for them, or they may have to wait an hour after the senior game ends until their 7:30 game starts.

Seniors only: Should the senior division allow and encourage pitching screens?

PROS: Screens are required in some Florida senior-citizen leagues. Used properly, they protect pitchers in a way that masks and body armor cannot. Allowing screens may encourage some pitchers to stay longer in our league.

CONS: Few local pitchers are familiar with the screens. It would be an adjustment for them and for hitters, infielders and umpires. It can be cumbersome if one team uses the screen and another doesn’t.

Seniors only: Should senior games begin at 5:30 instead of 5 p.m.?

PROS: For those who still have jobs, it will be easier to get to games on time. The 5 p.m. start was necessary when many players had to drive between Henry Frank and Normain parks before a 6:30 junior game. No one has to make that drive now.

CONS: Senior division games occasionally take longer than an hour because they tend to have higher scores. A result might be that some junior games start late.