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Opening Week

Organizing a softball season is a lot like planning a wedding

….when the wedding has about 120 brides.

Perhaps we missed a detail or two, but we hope you are as happy with the first week of our 2023 season as we are – not to mention the great weather we had! If we didn’t get the chance to personally welcome you or thank you for playing with us, we still have three months to get that done.

Special Welcome

We have about 25 new players across our two divisions this season. This means 25 more people are playing senior slow-pitch softball now who didn’t play last year. A few have told us it’s actually been a decade or two since they stepped into a batter’s box. We’re glad to see you back on a diamond.

Schedules, Standings and Scores

Our thanks to Mike Sniadecki, Asst. Director of the Byers complex, for making our scores, standings and schedules readily available on the South Bend softball web site ( The button on the right will take you to there. Scores and up-to-date standings will typically be posted the night of the games. Also, when you click on your team’s name you’ll see your next week’s schedule.

Speaking of schedules, we found and corrected some glitches in the Juniors schedule as of 5/14/23. We have also provided a link on the right of this page so you can download a printable copy. The Senior Division schedule remains unchanged. Any copies of the Junior Division schedule issued prior to 5/14 can be discarded.

Catching up with details

Players on teams with new sponsors have received uniform shirts by now. We’ll be talking with managers to see if we missed anyone.

Another detail we are working on is our rule book. Since rule books can start to read like IRS regulations, our commissioners have posted the noteworthy rules applicable to our league and the Byers complex. (See “Rules, Changes and Updates” to the right.) For example, other leagues playing at Byers do not use the alternate third base line to avoid collisions at home plate. We are working closely with the Byers umpires on nuances such as that. As situations arise or something needs clarification we will work to update the document accordingly. One such rule being revisited as I write this is the time limit for games. Many senior leagues nationwide (and other leagues that play at Byers) use a 60-minute time limit. Our circumstances present the opportunity for a 75-minute time limit, giving a little more breathing room to the seniors while still allowing the junior division games to begin on time.

We all appreciate a longer game is fine when there is good pace and a lot of action. That said, we do not want to see a snowball effect impacting the games that follow throughout the evening. Let’s all do our part: Get on and off the field quickly; Avoid wasting time by choosing our bat at the last second or hunting for our gloves; On-deck and in-the-hole batters – be ready! Substitute runners – be ready! Let’s all do our part to keep up the pace of play to avoid a game being called prematurely and to help ensure the last game doesn’t run too late into the evening.

Ways you can help us

If you enjoy the league, please consider helping us in three ways:

  • Throughout the season, teams sometimes run short on players. They can avoid forfeiting or playing short-handed if they can get a substitute. Steve Sporinsky is collecting names of players who are willing to be on a sub call list. It’s a great way to get more play in when your regular team has a bye or is playing the 7:30 Junior game.
  • The Byers park opens about an hour before our 5 p.m. Senior games. We’re looking for 10 or so volunteers to come a bit sooner to help put up the white home run fences on Tuesdays, Thursdays or both. With a crew that size we can get the job done by around 3:30 leaving the volunteers a little extra time to loosen up and get in some batting practice before other players arrive.
  • We’ll be electing new commissioners in a couple months, and we’re always in need of new managers and assistant managers. The hard work for the procedures, tasks and such are ironed out so it’s easy to step in. If you have ideas that can make us better, please consider assisting us. We also could use a volunteer or two who would like to organize things like this year’s season-ending celebration, home run derby, and maybe a golf, bowling or mini-golf challenge. If you or your better half have the knack for such things let Ken Bradford know.

A personal story

I was at the ballpark early Thursday because I had a lot of things to do. Those chores suddenly didn’t seem important when I looked up and saw Guy Berquist. Guy was the first friend I made when I joined this softball league 10 years ago. He and I were the only rookies that year, and we ended up on opposing teams. But I always kept an eye out for Guy.

I remember one game when I knocked him flat while he was covering second base and I was still learning the league’s odd rules for base-running. Our friendship was tested but survived that.

We would see each other from time-to-time in unexpected places – Notre Dame’s Performing Arts Center; Coveleski Stadium and on golf courses. On Thursday, that unexpected place was the Byers Complex.

He’s not in the league this year. His wife has retired, so she and Guy are moving back east. I had heard he was moving and didn’t know if I would get a chance to say good-bye. This brief time with him Thursday was well-spent. It seem fitting that softball became the bookends to our time together here in the midwest.

This softball league has a lot of comings and goings. One of our commissioners, Steve Latzke, isn’t with us this season because he answered the call to serve as Pastor to a congregation in the Indianapolis area. Bobby Lute has retired after three decades in the league. Snookie Ferency is out for a month or more after a recent surgery.

I’ve played about 400 games in this league and recall only bits and pieces of them. What I remember instead are the thousands of conversations with folks like Guy and Steve and Bobby and Snookie.

For me, the best times in softball are when no one’s keeping score.

Enjoy the game — enjoy the season — enjoy making friends. ~Ken

Rules, Changes & Updates

Most of the rules affecting our games are in the USA Softball participant manual where you can learn more about, for example, the infield fly rule or obstruction of a fielder by a runner. In addition, we play on fields under the jurisdiction of the South Bend’s softball director. Those rules can be referenced here. There also are park rules. For example, you can’t bring weapons onto park property, ride a skateboard or fly a drone over park airspace.

Below are specific rules and noteworthy changes relevant to our Michiana Senior Softball League as well as some basics for the benefit of our new players.

Rosters and Player Eligibility

Teams are limited to 18 players on their permanent roster. New players wishing to join the league after the season begins may be assigned to a waiting list and can serve as substitutes until a roster spot opens.

Our league offers two Divisions: Players in the Junior division must be age 52 or older during the calendar year. The Senior division’s age minimum is 62. (Exceptions can be made by the commissioners based on a player’s physical abilities.)

Prior to every season, the commissioners decide on a format for adding newcomers to teams. Our primary goal is to achieve competitive parity among the teams. Players may be assigned to teams based on tryouts, an open draft or other means.

Players typically will stay on the same teams from year to year. However, all players have the option of declaring themselves free agents after a season is completed, and they would re-enter the new player pool. The deadline for declaring free agency will be determined annually by the commissioners.:


  • If a player uses offensive language, the umpire can call the next batter out.
  • Severe cursing can result not only in next batter out, but also ejection of the offender. 
  • If a team member is unable to come off the bench to sub for the ejected player an automatic out is incurred when the ejected player’s spot comes up in the batting order for the duration of the game.
  • Angrily throwing a bat on the field may be considered grounds for warning and/or ejection at umpire’s discretion


Before game begins:

  • Teams are encouraged to field and bat all attending, able-bodied team members.
    • Minimum line-up = 11
    • Exception: If only 10 team members show-up by game time, and all 10 play the field, the line-up of 10 is permitted. The team may optionally add eligible subs (max of 3) before the game commences to make 11 or more
    • If only 9 team members show-up by game time, the team should try to acquire one to three subs before the game commences. However, if none are available the game may proceed under the following conditions:
      • All 9 must play the field & bat.
      • A ‘virtual’ 10th batter will be added to the bottom of the batting order.  Each time this ‘virtual batter’ comes up in the order an automatic OUT is applied. The batting team must announce the OUT to both defense and umpire(s) each time it comes up in the order. (In other words, before the lead-off man steps up to bat.)
    • A team of 8 or less must forfeit.

After game has begun:

  • Non-team member subs are prohibited.
    • Exception: In the event of an injury an eligible non-team member sub is permitted to replace the injured player if no other team members are available.  
    • Exception for Senior Division Only: A Senior team beginning a game with 9 or 10 players will be permitted to add eligible non-team member subs until the end of the 3rd inning to make 11.  While they have 9 players the virtual 10th batter out rule applies. (Spirit: Potential subs tend to be less available when the Senior Division plays at 5:00)
    • If a player leaves a game voluntarily an automatic out is assessed when his turn at bat comes up in the order unless there is a team member substitute on the bench who has not been used on the line-up card.

Gameday Substitutes

  • If a sub is used, opposing manager should be made aware as a courtesy
  • Limit: Up to 3 permitted/team.
  • Gameday subs must be age appropriate for the division.
  • Any league member may sub
  • A non-league member may sub (waiver required.)
  • All subs must bat and play field.
  • Subs must be placed at the bottom of the batting order
  • Positions:
    • If 1 sub used, sub must play RF
    • If 2 subs: RF and Catcher
    • If 3 subs: RF, Catcher, RCF
    • Exception: (Senior Division Only) If a team lacks a pitcher and both managers agree, then a sub may pitch.


  • Senior Division: Any bat provided it does not exceed a 1.21 BPF rating (Bat Performance Factor). 
  • Junior Division:
    • 64 and under can use single wall, double wall or wood bat.
    • 65 and older may use the above or composite (cannot exceed 1.21 BPF.)
  • Both Divisions:
    • Any player using an illegal bat may be called out by the umpire if an appeal is made before the next live pitch.
    • Approved bats are those bearing markers from the USSSA, NSA, ISA or ASA.

Protective Gear

  • Players participate at their own risk.
  • Wearable PPE is encouraged per the desired degree of protection.
  • Pitching screen will not be permitted.

Infield Positioning

In the senior division only, at least two players must remain on each half of the infield, and no more than three can play on either half.

Legal Pitch Height

Pitch height = 6 to 12 feet for both Jr. and Sr. divisions.

Game Time Limit

Spirit: Avoid late starts for subsequent games. The ump may declare no new inning will begin once the game reaches 60 minutes. To avoid wasting game time we recommend quick on, quick off; Quickly clear the dropped bat; On deck and in-the-hole batters ready to go; Courtesy runners ready when batter steps up; Relieved batter/runner should get off the field quickly.

Shirts and Hats

Hats do not have to match.  Bill of hat must face forward unless it hampers wearing a mask. Matching shirts are not mandatory.

Game Basics

  • Batters start with 1-1 count
  • Foul ball after 2 strikes = batter OUT
  • 5 run max per inning for batting team.
  • Batter is OUT if catcher catches any foul tipped ball.
  • Game = 7 innings.  (Mercy rule: 15 after 5 innings; 10 after 6)
  • Extra innings: 8th inning and onward commences with a runner on 2nd base.
  • Substitute Runners:
    • Batters who reach base safely can request a pinch runner.
    • The pinch runner opportunity ends when the next batter takes first pitch.
    • Can be any team member. 
    • The next offensive player to touch the base after batter/runner steps away is committed as the runner. 
    • If the substitute runner is still on base when it’s their turn to bat, it is an automatic OUT.

First Base

  • Batter/runner going for a single must use the right side of first base. Failure to do so can result in an OUT.
    • Exception: For an outfield hit with no likely play attempt at first base the batter/runner may round the regular bag toward 2nd
    • Exception: The batter runner may use the left base to avoid the collision due to an errant throw to first base.
  • Defense shall use the white base when attempting a force out at first.
    • Exception: If an errant throw takes take the 1st baseman to the right side bag it is a legal defensive play.
  • Umpire’s discretion applies in event of any unusual situation.

Outfield Singles (Senior Div. only)

  • The batter/runner going for a single cannot be thrown out at first from the outfield by an outfielder regardless of how the ball ended up getting to and touching the outfield grass.
    • Exception: Any batted ball first touched by an infielder constitutes a normal live ball play and the batter/runner CAN be thrown out at first base by any fielder.
  • If an infielder (including the Middle) intentionally sets up in the outfield grass to serve as an extra outfielder they are considered an ‘outfielder’ according to the spirit of this rule.

Going Home to Score a Run

  • Runner going from 3rd to home must use the scoring line, not home plate.
  • If runner touches home plate it’s an automatic OUT and no run counted.
  • To score, runner’s foot must touch the ground beyond the scoring line before catcher touches home plate (with ball in control). 
  • A commitment line between 3rd base and home (thirty feet from home plate) constitutes a point of no return for a runner.  Once a runner has crossed the commitment line:
    • The runner cannot return to third base
    • The runner cannot be tagged out by the defensive player (the defense must touch Home Plate). 

3rd Base Commitment Line

A commitment line between third base and home (30 feet from home plate) constitutes a point of no return for a runner. Once a runner has crossed the commitment line, he cannot return to third base. The runner cannot be tagged out by a defensive player. The defense must touch home plate.

Home Run Limits (over the fence)

  • Individual: max of 2/game
  • Team (all players combined): max of 4/game
  • After the max limit:
    • Automatic dead-ball Single.
    • Runners advance one base.

Courtesy Runners

RUNNERS: Any batter who achieves first base may request a courtesy runner after a time-out is called. That new runner may not be replaced by another unless it is necessary because he is injured. If a courtesy runner is still on base when it is his turn to bat, the runner is declared out, but he can take his turn at bat.

Extra Innings and Mercy Rule

If a team is leading by 15 or more runs after five innings or by 10 runs or more after the sixth inning, the game is declared over. Unless the game is running late, the losing team has the option of taking its final at-bat before the rule is enforced.
If the game is tied at the end of seven innings, play will begin in the eighth and any subsequent innings with a runner placed on second base. If an extra inning would cause major delays in the start of other games, the umpire may declare the game has ended in a tie.

Last Steps Before Opening Day

Check your calendars

          May 9 is nearly here. As usual, we’ll be working on details until the flrst ball is pitched, but we’re all looking forward to playing softball again.

          The schedules have been sent to all managers, and we’ll post them online when we have access to our South Bend parks website. Also, we can send the schedules and 2023 rule changes to you, if you contact us by email.

          In the meantime, here are some things you might want to know:

Because of the byes required in a five-team division, the senior schedule needs 25 dates if every team plays 20 games. That means, except for the July 4 week, seniors will be playing every Tuesday and Thursday at 5 p.m. from May 9 through August 8.

          A double-elimination tournament will be August 10, 15 and 17.

          For the juniors, there are no byes. Instead, we are excited to offer some doubleheaders for 2023. Four teams will play at 6:30, then the fifth team will play at 7:30 against one of those early four. This will be done on a rotating basis, so each team will play four doubleheaders during the season.

Juniors can count on playing every Tuesday and Thursday, except during the July 4 week, from May 9 through July 20. The double-elimination tournament will begin July 27 and end August 3 or August 8.

If you have questions, contact

We’re still working on contingencies for rainouts or other postponements. If you have ideas or suggestions, please let us know.

Fees and waivers

          Here are some reminders. Player fees are $60 for a single division and $100 for those who play in both. Your team managers are responsible for collecting those fees, which are due before the season’s third game, on May 16.

          If you don’t have your money in, you won’t be allowed to play on May 16. Please don’t make your manager chase down the money. If you’re writing a check, the pay line should be to Michiana Senior Softball.

          You also will be required to sign a player waiver. The gist is that you understand there is a risk of injury in softball and that you agree not to sue the team, league, field owner, USA softball or any employees, agents, etc. if you get hurt. If you don’t sign, you can’t play.

Senior rosters

A softball season depends on a lot of details – schedules, uniform sizes, umpire assignments, etc.

The toughest challenge might be putting team rosters together, especially for this season. With a larger-than-normal turnover in players and a switch from six thin teams to five solid ones, we saw an opportunity to level out the competition in the senior division.

Steve Sporinsky was in charge of this process. With more than a dozen newcomers, every team should be better than they were in 2022.

Some small changes still may be required, but here are the rosters for the senior division. If we’ve missed someone who intends to play, please let us know by contacting

Brew Werks: Ron Wilson (manager), Mike Catanzarite, Tom Garman, John Kjoller, Al Kukla, Faron Lubbers, Dave Melander, Mike Pino, Joe Rager, Dan Reck, Randy Robertson, Bob Shaffer, Corky Towne, Fred VanDyke, Paul Wasowski, Paul Williams.

OC Hardware: Snookie Ferency (manager) Neil Andrews, Ken Bradford, John Hollerbach, Bobby Hughes, Bob Jamieson, Ed Jankowski, Bobby Knight, Don Millow, Mike Myers, Bill Schell, Kevin Sherbun, Kirby Sprouls, Bob Tajkowski, Mark Witkowski.

Prep & Polish: Ron Betzer (manager), John Albers, Tom Baiz, Ed Biggs, Joseph Caruso, Mike Clark, Xavier Creary, Keith Gordon, Doug Hann, George Hartman, Heinz Hayen, John Hess, Jerome Keller, Patrick Whisler, Bob White, Phil Zillman.

Unity Gardens: Gary Marcus (manager), Jerry AuFrance, Dale Coleman, John Coyle, Derek Dieter, Dennis Hartsell, Denis Hestad, Emery Hirschler, Russ Kintzele, Steve Klujsza, Gene Kwasniak, Randy Miller, Kelly Moyer, Richard Russell, Dan Thomas, Bob Torok, Don Torok.

Wesolowski Insurance: Rich Sparks (manager), Jimmy Arnett, Bruce Cernak, Gary Duddleson, Bob Fonseca, Jim Gannarelli, Terry Hayden, Jerry Hopkins, Curtis Kent, Bob Marcelli, Tod Moorhead, Keith Peczkowski, Ken Richmond, Steve Sporinsky, Dave Varner.

Most of the teams have 15 or 16 players. With vacations and the usual injuries, we shouldn’t have teams playing short-handed or forfeiting.

We’re grateful for the cooperation of team managers. This is a task that can’t be done without everyone working for the greater good.

Rosters for the junior division are in their final stages, and we hope to post those here in a few days.

Michiana Senior Softball League, April 3, 2023, Ken Bradford, Steve Sporinsky, Mark Witkowski, Adam Kroemer, Steve Latzke

Busy times

It’s finally time to break out the practice gear. If you haven’t heard from your team manager yet, you will soon.

We’ll have 10 teams this year – five in each division. Thanks to a lot of folks reaching out to their friends and neighbors, we’ll have almost exactly the same number of players as we had in 2022.

We reduced the number of teams from six to five because we want to make them stronger. Last season, several teams played short-handed and a couple teams actually forfeited because they didn’t have enough players.

Most teams should have approximately 15 rostered players. With only four of the five teams playing at any given time, the bye team’s players will be available to substitute on short-handed teams. We want every game to be good.

The plan is for juniors to play a 24-game schedule that includes four doubleheaders for each team. This is an experiment to see if doubleheaders should be worked into our routine in future seasons. The seniors will play 20 games, and will have a bye every fifth game. This will make better sense when the schedules are posted in the next couple of weeks.

The opening night is Tuesday, May 9. Let’s hope for great weather and a good time for all involved.

Uniform shirts

All teams had new shirts last season, and I hope you haven’t worn yours while changing the oil on your snowmobile this past winter.

Shirts traditionally are a two-year purchase. We will be buying new ones this year only for those teams with new sponsors. Those would be Bowlers Country Club, which is replacing Access, in the junior division, and Unity Gardens, Prep & Polish and South Bend Brew Werks, which are replacing Christman’s, Builders Store and AIM in the senior division.

Depending on how many new players are added to Palmer Funeral Homes, we may end up with shirts for the newcomers there.

If you’re on one of those teams, your manager will need your shirt size in the next week. We want to place our order with our new vendor early enough that our shirts can arrive by opening day.

The Byers complex has removed a long-standing rule that teams need to wear matching shirts. Frankly, the rule was rarely enforced and was there in part so it was easier to spot teams that were trying to sneak non-rostered players on the diamond.

No player has to wear a hat. If you do, you need to wear it with the bill pointing forward, unless you are pitching or catching. This is a city and national rule that will be enforced this season.

We won’t be buying hats in this league. It  will be nice to see as many uniform shirts out there as often as we can. It’s especially nice for our sponsors.

About umpires

Speaking of rules, the Byers Complex umpires were handed a new list this spring, and we need to be aware of the changes. The umpires have been asked to address slow play by enforcing a 60-minute time limit. No inning will be allowed to begin once the 60 minutes are up. The belief is that we just need to keep a good pace, on offense and defense. In some cases, we may end up with six-inning games.

When your team is batting, know who you follow and keep an eye on your fielding glove. If you’re going to be a courtesy runner, be prepared. Move quickly on and off the field on defense. It’s simple stuff.

John Walczewski, the South Bend coordinator, also wants umpires to pay closer attention to poor sportsmanship. If a batter throws his bat against a fence, for example, he will be declared out and will be ejected from the game. We can’t let a moment of anger endanger teammates or spectators.

Profanity also will be punished. If a batter swears after making an out, the following batter in his lineup also will be declared out. If profanity is directed toward an umpire, the player will be ejected.

Steve Sporinsky is compiling rules for our league as well and is working with managers on the final list. Knowing that sometimes players don’t hear what our managers tell them, our goal will be to make sure every player has access to our rules.


One of our longtime league members, John Cook, passed away March 25 at age 88. He stayed active as a coach and helper on the Wesolowski team until age 85. Survivors included his daughter, Debbie, and son-in-law Rich Sparks, the Wesolowski coach.

Services were Friday at Hahn Funeral Home in Mishawaka.

Four more sponsors

We are fortunate to have sponsorships from four local business owners who are players in our league.

The latest addition is Ed Biggs and his Prep & Polish. Ed, who has played on the Holy Smokes team, is stepping up as the sponsor of the former Builders Store team in the senior division. Prep & Polish, based in Osceola, offers concrete protection and beautification services through surface preparation and coatings. To contact Prep & Polish, call (574) 360-0801 or email

Jerry AuFrance is returning to the junior division with his Holy Smokes Pizza team. As the story goes, Jerry was making pizza in the kitchen at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church a decade ago when one of his friends exclaimed, “Holy Smokes, that’s good pizza.” Jerry’s plan for a bus-based mobile pizza kitchen has turned instead to a restaurant at 26222 Edison Road, near Lydick. His menu has expanded to include submarine sandwiches and burgers. For details, check out

Also returning to the juniors is Power House Electric, which is owned by John Albers. For the past several seasons, Power House has been the team to beat under a variety of names, including Nowicki Tile. John has been doing electrical work for the past four decades while also making a name for himself in the softball community. His phone is (574) 876-7339.

The Putt Putt Fun Center in Mishawaka is owned by John Rice, who sponsors that team in the junior division. The outdoor mini golf course is a popular, affordable choice for families during the spring, summer and fall. The Game Zone, full of arcade visits, provides an extra reason for your visit. The address is 3615 N. Main St., Mishawaka, and the phone is (574) 259-7141. Check it out at

These sponsors are showing their support for our league. Please keep them in mind when you’re considering how to spend your own time and money.

Roster update

We’ve moved back our deadline for filling rosters in both our divisions. We know a lot of folks are waiting to see the names of their teammates for the 2023 season.

The delay mainly is because we’ve continued to received inquiries from potential players. One of our standards is that we don’t want to deny any age-eligible player the opportunity to play softball with us.

In the meantime, we have to be careful in deciding on now many teams we include. If we were to have 80 people in a division, for example, a six-team format would have 13 players per side while a five-team format would have 16.

Thirteen seems like too few, and we might end up with a lot of short-handed games once players start getting injured or going on vacations. Sixteen seems like too many. If all the players show up on the same night, some might bat only once.

So, that’s the sort of discussion that’s going on now. We hope to close the door on registrations at the end of the week, which would get us to our goal line in the first week of April.

Thank you for your patience.

Michiana Senior Softball League, March 6, Ken Bradford, Steve Sporinsky, Mark Witkowski, Adam Kroemer, Steve Latzke

New Facebook page

We’ve established a new Facebook page – South Bend/Michiana Senior Softball. We’re just starting to fill it with content of interest to newcomers. Eventually, we’ll be using it to provide quick updates or reminders on league events.

We know that a lot of players don’t use Facebook. It’s just one of the tools we use to keep folks informed. If you get a chance, check it out and tell us how to improve it.

Three new sponsors

We’re fortunate this spring to have added three sponsors to our league. All three bring with them a reputation for helping make our community a better place.

Bowlers Country Club will join the junior division, replacing Access Sportswear. Bowlers has a nine-hole golf course, 14-lane bowling center, full-service bar and banquet center at Pine and Fillmore roads. Open since 1963, it is a nonprofit member-operated club that strives to be affordable for area families. Membership starts with a $160 first-year fee with an annual renewal of $50. Daily rates for golf start at $8 for nine holes on weekdays. During open bowling, games are $2.50 apiece. Ideally, members of our league can look at this club as a place we can get together when the softball season is over. In a day where people are looking for places to find family-friendly activities without breaking the budget, Bowlers is a place well worth your consideration.

Unity Gardens will have a team in the senior division, where three openings existed. Unity Gardens is a nonprofit that has brought national acclaim to our area. Founded in 2008 by public health nurse Sara Stewart, this organization is dedicated to improving this area’s nutrition by making good food available at no cost. Sara began by planting a small garden of greens on South Bend’s impoverished south side. Years later, Unity Gardens has dozens of small gardens throughout the county as well as a seven-acre main garden near the Beacon Heights neighborhood on the west side. She and her crew also offer classes on how to plant your own garden or how to prepare some of the unusual foods you can grow. We can help Sara feed the poorly nourished by volunteering at the gardens, donating money or buying vegetables, honey and other products at the Unity Gardens booth at Farmers Market.

South Bend Brew Werks, also a new senior sponsor, is a small brew pub making a big name for itself in our community. It began a decade ago as a hole-in-the-wall pub attached to the old State Theater but has grown into a busy spot in the Hibberd Building, 321 S. Main St. Steve Lowe, co-owner with his wife Michele, played softball for years at the Byer Complex and should be on MSSL managers’ radar sometime in the 2030s. The Werks has 16 rotating taps that provide beers appealing to an array of tastes (consider the Colonel Eddy stout or the Amistad Cream Ale) as well as a kitchen specializing in grilled cheeses, pastas and flatbreads. Its outdoor patio is a gathering space especially during the minor league season, with Four Winds Field just a couple of cutoff throws away. This is a business that has donated more than $100,000 to area nonprofits through its Beer4Good program.

Our most recent newsletter highlighted three returning sponsors – Palmer Funeral Homes in the junior division, and OC Hardware and Wesolowski Insurance in the seniors. We’ll feature three more returning sponsors in the next newsletter, and we’ll have another new sponsor ready. That gives us the 10 we’re likely to need this season.

We need to express gratitude to four sponsors from last year that are not returning – Access Sportswear, Barnaby’s of Mishawaka, Builders Store and Truck Accessories Group (TAG). Great sponsors help make us a great league.

March 16 and April 11

We have two key dates for players and managers.

On March 16, the commissioners will decide on the number of teams we’ll have in each division. Our goal is to have 14 to 16 reliable players on every roster. With that number, each team should be able to adjust when they lose players during the season to injuries, changes in work schedules and family vacations. We have had forfeits or teams playing short-handed nearly every season, and we want to avoid that.

We’re on target to have five teams in each division with the possibility of adding a sixth if we get a late surge of players. If you know someone who is wavering about joining us, please ask him or her to decide by March 16.

Also, we want to hear from you if you are a senior and want to join the junior division, or if you’re a junior old enough to play in the seniors, or if you’re currently on a team but want to move to another. The main goal is to make sure players end up where they want and where they’re needed. After the decisions we make March 16, we’ll have less flexibility afterward.

April 11 is the target date for our new player practice/tryout/draft. Some years we use a tryout-type event to give managers a chance to see who is available for the draft. In other years, everyone seems to know the new players, so we just speed ahead to the draft.

The senior division will not need a draft/tryout. Steve Sporinsky has been working closely with managers to review each team’s status. Two teams are returning almost intact, he says, and the other teams’ gaps are addressable thanks in no small part to those of you who have recruited a friend or two. We’ve also had some newcomers contact us directly. He says a few more players would be icing on the cake, so if you have someone still thinking it over, give them a call. Remind them that playing softball is more fun than mowing the lawn!

In the junior division, Adam Kroemer is in charge of rosters. He’s looking at four teams returning most of their players and two – TAG and Palmer – with significant losses. If we end up with five teams, the TAG/Palmer group will need the most attention.

The best part of April 11 is that it marks just four weeks until the season starts. We’re all looking forward to May 9 – Opening Night.

Michiana Senior Softball newsletter Feb. 20

Seventy-eight days until the first pitch.

Treasurer update

Bob Gorny says he will open a new league bank account when he returns from his Florida vacation early next month. Eventually, Bob will be able to give us a line-by-line, day-by-day accounting of our receipts and expenses.

Sincere thanks to Bob, who worked with the former treasurer for an equitable split for carry-over revenues.

We project having enough money that we can maintain our sponsor fees at $400 per team. Players will pay $60 to play in one division or $100 for both.

Our latest headcount

We are adding new recruits for both of our divisions, and we will continue our efforts until our rosters are filled in mid-April. An example of our outreach is in February edition of Senior Life. Mark Witkowski is featured, and he helps guide people to our league website.

Adam Kroemer is tracking our junior division recruits and hopes to have enough players for six teams again this season. Steve Sporinsky is doing the same for the senior group. He projects that we’ll have five teams but we could have six. Our headcounts rely a lot on communication with team managers, and we appreciate the help they’re providing. It is essential.

Our guidepost is that we would rather go with five strong teams of 14 or more players apiece than have six teams at constant risk of playing short-handed or forfeiting. Websites are a nice recruiting tool, but the most effective way is personal contact. If you know people age 52 or older from your workplace, your church, your neighborhood or elsewhere, tell them about us.

Bat reminders

Just a reminder here. Both divisions will abide by last season’s bat eligibility rules. For the senior division, the longstanding rule has been that any player can use any bat approved by the USSSA, NSA, ISA or ASA. For juniors, players 64 and younger should use single- or double-wall bats, while those 65 and older may use composites. No bat should exceed the 1.21 bpf (bat performance rating).

A thought to consider: There are a lot of ways to cheat the system, and we know them. Please remember that there are no million-dollar contracts in adult slow-pitch softball, and it is a felony in many states if a ball hit by your illegal bat injures another player. Also, if you’re a guy who thinks Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa should be banned from the baseball hall of fame because they used steroids, you also should be a guy who doesn’t cheat on bats. Please don’t cheat.

Infield shifts

Emery Hirschler has an interesting suggestion. Now that Major League Baseball has changed its infield rules, softball leagues might do the same. For example, there could be a requirement that at least two infielders be positioned on each side of second base. Infielders also could be limited to the infield skin until the ball is batted.

The idea has merit, especially in the senior division. We want to encourage our slower friends to continue playing. If deeper positioning turns every hard-hit grounder into an easy out, it can get discouraging. We won’t be doing it this season, but it’s something we should watch.

Facebook page

For the past few months, we’ve been concerned that the Michiana Senior Softball League page on Facebook has been promoting the Mid-America league. That was because the page administrator was one of the Mid-America organizers.

There already had been a lot of confusion among new and returning players about which league was which. If you type Michiana Senior Softball into google, our league page comes up under and theirs is under

Confusion doesn’t benefit anybody. We want players who choose us, not players who are making a mistake. Fortunately, Mid-America agrees and has renamed its Facebook page. That clears the way for us to create a new one for ourselves, using our own name. We hope to do that soon.

Sponsor update

It’s early, but we already have checks in from three returning sponsors.

OC Hardware will be back in the senior division. The store actually is known as Hardware Plus, at 611 Lincolnway W., Osceola. You’ll find almost everything that the big box stores have but spend a lot less time looking for it. One bonus about having this sponsor back is that the owner’s dad, Bobby Hughes, is a fan favorite in the OC team’s outfield.

Wesolowski Insurance — the Erie Insurance office run by Don Wesolowski at 216 S. Taylor St., South Bend — also returns in the senior division. Don has played a little softball himself over the years, and we’re hoping he’ll give it a try again someday. He’s been promised a hot dog and beer whenever he shows up at Byers.

Palmer Funeral Homes will sponsor a junior division team again this season. Palmer is in its second year as a sponsor, continuing the legacy of the former Bubb Funeral Chapel. Bubb still serves the community under the Palmer umbrella, which also includes five locations in South Bend, and one each in North Liberty and Lakeville. This is a solid, growing company that believes in supporting our community.

We’ll have three more sponsors expected to return, and two newcomers have committed. We’ll announce those in the next few weeks. We are grateful that these folks help us build our league. Depending on how many teams we end up with, we’re likely to need two or more new sponsors before the middle of April. If you have any businesses or organizations in mind, let us know.

Michiana Senior Softball Jan. 30

Last call for umpires

The Byers staff is willing to have a workshop for those of us who are interested in becoming umpires for the 2023 season. Presumably, we would be working games at the Byers Complex but not on our league nights.

The city pays umpires $30 a game, so this is a chance to earn a little extra cash during the summer. It also could give the Byers folks some flexibility in their planning, because there is an areawide shortage of umpires.

We’ve had three candidates step up. If anyone else is interested in the training, please contact by noon Friday, Feb. 2.

A midseason break

The schedule approved by commissioners in both divisions includes a full week off for the July 4 holiday. Independence Day is on a Tuesday. We will be taking off on Thursday, July 6, as well.

Sponsor your own team?

We’re just beginning our effort to find sponsors for the 2023 season. Our first step will be to contact last year’s sponsors to see if they’re still with us. We know this much already: We will need some replacements.

Of our 12 sponsors from last year, four were there because of players who have left our league. Those include Access and TAG in the junior division and Christman and AIM in the seniors. We hope to have the other eight return. If they do, and if we have 10 total teams, we still will need two new sponsors. If they don’t, we may have room for even more.

We will be talking with friends who own businesses or lead other organizations, and we ask that you do the same. The sponsor fee is $400 per team, and we can help with details on that. Our preference is that we give league members a chance to become sponsors before we go outside.

One extra bit of information: If you pay a team sponsor fee, that covers your annual player dues. In effect, it would cost you $400 for the sponsorship but save you $100 if you’re playing in both divisions, or $60 if you play in just one. The net cost to you would be $300, or $340.

The way it looks now

We’re expecting to hear from new recruits throughout February and March. But if the season were to start today, we would have five solid teams in both our divisions.

A five-team junior division would be great for several reasons. For one, we would be able to use just two diamonds instead of three. We would be putting up and taking down fewer home run fences. We also would be needing fewer umpires.

Another advantage is that we could have a 24-game season on just 20 dates. That’s because one team every night would be scheduled for a doubleheader. Four teams would play at 6:30 – 1 vs. 2 and 3 vs. 4, for example. Then Team 5 would play at 7:30 against one of those four teams from the earlier game. We’ve constructed a tentative schedule that would give every team an equal number of later starts and the same number of double-headers.

Another advantage would be that no team should ever have to play short-handed or forfeit. There always would be substitutes available – at 6:30, from the team waiting to play the late game, and at 7:30 from the three teams who completed the early games.

The senior division would have the same benefit of players being available to avoid forfeits. With five teams, one always would have a 5 p.m. bye. The downside is that the seniors don’t have the option of playing a late game, so a 20-date regular season would give each team just 16 games, plus a minimum of two in a double-elimination tournament.

The commissioners will need your input on this. Some seniors like the bye as a night off. Others want as many games as possible. If we want to turn our 16-game schedule into 20, we could add some extra games, once or twice per month on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday. If we want to spice it up, we might be able to play those games away from the complex, at other city parks.

Or, if we get permission from Byers, we could stick with the 20 dates and add an early game, at 4 p.m., for four senior doubleheaders per season. One game would be at 4, followed by two at 5. All ideas should be on the table. Think it over and talk with your manager or your commissioners.

Our preference would be to have six teams in each league. It would be consistent with our steady progress during the past quarter-century. But this is an unusual year. We believe it will be better to have five solid teams this season than six shaky ones. We’ll have fun either way.

First spaghetti dinner

The league collected $120 from its fundraiser with the Knights of Columbus on Jan. 20. Tickets were $14 apiece with $4 going to the league. Thanks to all who attended. If we end up paying $8 or so per shirt, we just found enough money for uniforms for an entire team.

We ended up selling 30 tickets, about half of which were used for carry-outs. The dinner also served as a chance for a dozen or so league members to socialize during the off-season.

If there is interest, we could have one more chance for a spaghetti dinner before Lent. The date would be Feb. 17. Let us know if you would attend, at

Only if you’re interested

Most of us would rather just know when to show up with a glove and a bat once the season starts. Others want to know how decisions were made on everything from the preseason player draft to the menu at the season awards program. Reports on the annual league meetings are posted on this site, and so are these newsletters. If you have questions, let us know. Otherwise, we’ll look forward to seeing you at the Complex on May 9.

Senior managers meeting of Jan. 19, 2023

If you have questions or want to join the league, contact

Attending were commissioners Steve Sporinsky, Mark Witkowski and Ken Bradford; and managers Snookie Ferency, Ron Betzer and Rich Sparks. Unable to attend were managers Ron Wilson and Gary Marcus.

The main topics included preliminary player head counts and the post-season tournament.

The early head count shows three teams with 14 or more players with three others ranging from nine down to three or four. Based on those numbers and expectations of recruiting newcomers, we will plan for a five-team division with the flexibility to add a sixth. The league alignment will be decided closer to March when we know better about our recruitment efforts.

A five-team league would have several advantages. We would be using two diamonds and requiring just two umpires on game nights. That also means we would be putting up two sets of fences before games instead of three. The team with the bye would have players available to substitute, so we should be able to avoid playing short-handed or forfeiting.

The main disadvantage is that a 20-date schedule would give each team four byes, for a total of 16 actual games per team. We could stretch the season to two more weeks, if we don’t lose games because of wet or hot weather. If so, including the double-elimination tournament, all senior players should have a chance for 20 or more games.

The managers prefer a double-elimination tournament that likely would begin Aug. 8. The winner’s bracket final would be Aug. 15 with the “if necessary” game on Aug. 17. We hope to have the senior and junior championships on the same night.

The managers decided to continue with last season’s bat rules, with all nationally approved bats allowed as long as they don’t exceed a 1.21 bpf (bat performance rating).

Four additional issues will be voted on by all players, if possible, at a summer meeting:

  1. By-laws that would qualify our league as a nonprofit organization.
  2. Will we continue to play at the Byers Complex for the 2024 season and beyond?
  3. Will we continue to use the temporary home run fences at the 250-foot mark?
  4. Will the senior division games begin in 2024 at 5:30 with junior games beginning at 7?

Other decisions and discussions of note include:

No games will be played during the July 4 week. Everyone gets a week off.

We are exploring the concept of an all-star game as a season finale. One idea is to play that game as part of an outdoor banquet-style event. We’re looking for ideas on that.

The managers also heard a summary of our treasurer’s report. With current fees ($60 for one division and $100 for both) and sponsorships ($400 per team), we’ll easily meet required league expenses. Any money left over could be used for uniform shirts, a banquet, league awards and/or sponsor plaques. If money isn’t available for all these items, the commissioners may have to decide which expenses have the highest priority.

There is an areawide shortage of umpires. One way we can help is to get training to umpire on our off-nights. Presumably, by working a Monday or Wednesday we may free up an umpire for our league nights.

We are attempting in several ways to attract more players, both at the junior and senior level. Anyone with a friend or acquaintance interested in joining the league can contact one of the commissioners or their manager.

Jerry AuFrance hosted the meeting at Holy Smokes Pizza, just as he did for the juniors on Tuesday. The commissioners are grateful for that.