Month: December 2022

Newsletter No. 6

Choose what’s best for you


Happy Holidays! We wish everyone safe travel and germ-free times with family and friends.  

Wow! The past few weeks have seen a flurry of phone calls, emails and texts about summer softball. With two leagues now available, players must choose one or the other for 2023 since both plan to play on the same weekdays. To that end, we hope you will find the following information helpful.

Factors to consider include location, teammates, field quality, park amenities and the level of play — the latter being more applicable to those of us with a fair number of candles on our birthday cakes.

Locations: The Michiana Senior Softball League (MSS) will play again at Byers Complex on Mayflower Road for 2023. Play was moved there a year ago when indications arose that Mishawaka had plans to repurpose Normain and Henry Frank parks.

The Mid-America Senior Softball League (the new league) will play at Normain Park in Mishawaka for 2023, and possibly at Henry Frank (other city plans have been suspended, at least for summer 2023)

Level of Play: The Michiana Senior Softball League offers two divisions. (You can play in one or both based on your age as of your 2023 birthday.

The 62+ Division (aka “seniors”) offers an age-appropriate level of play by tweaking a few rules to keep things enjoyable — a nice way of saying it’s for those of us whose reflexes aren’t what they used to be <wink>). Any bat permitted.

The 52+ Division (aka “juniors”) is for those looking for more competitive play. Bats are based on a player’s age (single wall, double wall or composite).

The Mid-America Senior Softball League announced plans for one division for 2023. It will be 52+ in general while allowing some players at age 50.

Amenities: This perhaps is more important to some than others. Byers is a dedicated softball complex with tournament-caliber fields, plenty of parking, shaded bleachers for spectatators, restrooms with running water and a concession stand. Normain presents a family atmosphere typical of most city parks … decent fields, plenty of space for pets and swing sets for the grandkids. For more information, here are some websites. 

Byers Complex:

Normain Park:

How can we help?

If you have questions, ideas or rule suggestions, let us hear from you!  If you have questions about the new Mid-America League, we will be happy to get you in touch with one of their representatives. We were friends last year and we hope that continues.

We hope that everyone stays safe and healthy for the snowy months ahead.

Steve Sporinksy, senior commissioner,

Mark Witkowski, senior commissioner,

Ken Bradford, lead league commissioner,

How about more umpires?


Yes, it would. But it likely won’t happen during the regular season this year.

Here’s a question that came up. It’s impossible for even the best umpires to get a clear view of the home run fences 250 feet from home plate. Wouldn’t it be better to have a second umpire who could watch the fences as well as trapped balls in the outfield and close plays at second base?

It’s hard to find umpires for the six games we play each Tuesday and Thursday at Byers. And, at this point, we couldn’t afford them anyway.

The Byers Complex pays our umpires $30 per game. Last season, we had 12 teams playing a 25-game schedule. Our goal is to have the same number this season. The math figures out to 150 games needing an extra umpire, so the additional cost would be $4,500 a year.

If this becomes a priority, we could handle it with two actions. First, we could find additional sponsors and donors to bring in that extra $4,500. Second, we could find players who would get training so they could serve as base umpires. A senior player might help umpire a junior game, and a junior player might umpire a senior game.

Dinner with 49 friends

Straightening out our finances is a major priority this summer. Once we get our steady on our feet, we can start looking at improvements like this.

The Francis Club is inviting our league to a spaghetti dinner on Friday, Jan. 20, at the Knights of Columbus lodge, 61533 S. Ironwood Road, South Bend.

It’s part of the club’s mission to help raise money for local groups. Dinners are $14 apiece, with $4 going to our softball league. The menu includes spaghetti, salad, garlic bread and ice cream. The club has a cash bar for those who want wine, beer or other adult beverages.

The club can set aside 50 seats for our league members, from 5 to 7 p.m. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Family members and friends are welcome.

This is the first in an attempt to bring fundraising and fellowship into our off-season. If you want to reserve seats, contact This is a ticketed event.

Bob Torok says the spaghetti sauce is a special recipe and is the best in the area. Bob is well-known for his truthfulness. Please come enjoy the evening with your friends and teammates.

How is it looking now?


This isn’t a normal off-season for our league. We’re busier than usual, positioning ourselves for the long-term future by formalizing our structure. That means having a transparent system where every member will know our budgeting, our bylaws and our rules. This will pay off ultimately in that we will be able seek donations and grants as a registered nonprofit organization.

In the shorter term, we have some opportunities for league members to step up.

In past years, our league would replace about 10 players, one manager and one team sponsor. This year, in part because of the creation of the Mid-American Senior Softball League, our challenge will be to do more than that.

Our goal is to have six teams again in both divisions in 2023. We’ll know better after our January manager meetings, but the preliminary expectations are these:

SPONSORS: We are expecting to replace two in each division. The sponsors we don’t expect to return are TAG and Access in the juniors and Christman and AIM in the seniors.

MANAGERS: It’s likely we’ll be replacing two in the juniors – with managers from Palmer and TAG not returning. In the seniors, we will be replacing one, for the former AIM team. Update: Jerry Aufrance says he’ll appoint a manager for Holy Smokes when he is absent.

PLAYERS: We won’t have headcounts until after our manager meetings, but we expect four of our junior teams to return almost completely intact. We’ll need to replace about half the players in the other two. On the senior side, it’s likely we’ll need to replace half or more of one team as well as two or three players on a few of the others.

It isn’t that hard to replace sponsors. The fee is relatively low at $400 per season. If you have a connection with a business or club that wants to support us, let us know. Otherwise, we’ll start knocking on doors in February.

It shouldn’t be hard to replace managers, either. At the league level, we just need someone to represent each team when we’re discussing rosters and rules. At the team level, most teams settle into a routine where the fielding spots and batting orders are close to the same for every game. If you’ve been on one of the teams that needs a manager, please consider stepping up. We can appoint someone else from another team, but if you like the vibe you have, it’s best to keep it within the team’s hands.

As for players, the early estimate is that we’ll need about two dozen if we want to continue with 12 teams. We have some strategies to help reach folks who haven’t heard of our league. The best method, though, is for those of us already on teams to spread the word to friends and neighbors. Keep in mind that our age divisions have some flexibility. If your friend isn’t age 62 yet but has mobility issues and hasn’t played softball for decades, we can give him or her a trial run in the senior division. That is part of the point of the April practice/tryout. One of our league’s goals is to make sure there’s a spot for anyone who can safely play. Let us know how we can help.

Newsletter No. 5

Questions? Contact

New leaders for the seniors

Steve Sporinsky and Mark Witkowski have agreed to serve as interim commissioners for the senior division for the 2023 season.

Steve plays with Wesolowski  in the seniors and Palmer’s in the juniors. Mark plays with OC Hardware and Holy Smokes Pizza. Both are highly respected for their enthusiasm and good sportsmanship, and they are committed to making the division even better.

Their immediate goal is to get in touch with as many senior players as we can in advance of a January managers meeting. If players have suggestions that would help us, we want to hear them.

We call these positions “interim” because they are appointed, rather than elected. When we prepare for the 2024 season, we will make these elected positions, just as they are in the junior division.

We need to thank Steve and Mark for stepping up, and we hope for good times ahead.

Road trip to Crown Point

Bob Fonseca has a group of senior players who rent the Sparta Dome in Crown Point for softball practices on Wednesdays.

He says the group includes some guys in their 50s but the majority are 60-plus. It costs $20 to join plus $5 for any practices you attend. The practices go from noon to about 2:30 p.m., Central time. It’s about an 80-minute drive from South Bend to Crown Point, so it might be wise to set up a carpool.

If you want to join, call Bob at (219) 210-0120.

A single-wall for Christmas?

A lot of us do some bat shopping during the off-season. If this is part of your Christmas list, you might want to ask Santa for a gift certificate instead, especially if you’re still in your 50s.

Every January at the junior managers meeting, some discussion occurs about bats. It’s no fun having commissioners serve as bat police, but the goal usually is to make things simpler while keeping the games safe and fair.

Composite bats are legal for all batters in the senior division. Almost certainly, they’ll stay that way.

The main reason we bring it up now is that good bats are expensive. The wise thing for juniors to do is to wait until after the January meeting to plunk down money for a bat you may not be able to use.

Play with us, learn with them

Have you heard about the Forever Learning Institute? FLI has been offering a wide range of classes for people in our age group for 45 years. It’s a chance to develop new interests and skills – from Hawaiian dance, to juggling, to speaking French, to understanding obscure Biblical prophets. Most classes are at the Little Flower parish center, 54191 Ironwood Road, South Bend.

We’re not exactly joining forces, but we’ve asked FLI to include information about us in their newsletter and course calendar. They serve ages 50 and older, so it’s possible that their students can become our ballplayers – and vice versa. We may need an influx of newcomers, especially in the senior division, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.

As for FLI, the spring semester begins in March. Keep an eye on the website – – for class offerings, schedules and registration deadlines.

We’ve sent a similar inquiry to Mishawaka’s Battell Community Center and hope we get the same response. We all share the same mission – helping people find ways to stay active as they get older. If you have other ideas for outreach, please let us know.

Another look in the rulebook

In our fourth newsletter, we listed five rules that come from our league book. We’re including four more here.

In years past, our managers spent time at their winter meeting trying to rewrite our rulebook. Sometimes, the discussions would be about small issues that would apply to only one or two players, and we were trying to solve problems that could be handled with a simple discussion with the people involved.

Most of us learned about baseball by playing with neighborhood kids in a vacant lot or at a schoolyard diamond. We kept the game simple and resolved disputes among ourselves. The basic principle was this: Is the rule fair, and does it help us keep the game fun?

We should keep to that standard. No rule should favor one team or player over another. We’re here to have fun. Try not to argue. If you find yourself arguing, you’re missing the point.

Having said that, we need to have as few rules as possible. Most of what we need is in the national USA Softball handbook USA Softball – Features, Events, Results | Team USA or the USA Softball Indiana handbook USA Softball of Indiana ( In addition, the Byers Complex has rules Park Rules ( and Safe Equipment Rule (

In most cases, you don’t have to know all this. Play ball. Stay safe. Be kind.

The order of determination starts with the umpire, whose decision is paramount. He or she enforces, first, our league rules, then the park rules, then the state rules and finally the national rules.

Our managers will look at league rules again in January. We’ll keep them together on the web page archives.

ROSTERS AND PLAYER ELIGIBILITY: Teams are limited to 18 players on their permanent roster. If new players join the league after the season begins, they may be assigned to a waiting list and can serve as substitutes until a roster spot opens.

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.

NEW PLAYERS: Prior to every season, the commissioners will decide on a format for adding newcomers to teams. A primary goal is to achieve competitive parity among the teams. Depending on the talent pool, 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.

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.

FEES: The commissioners, with consultation from the managers, will establish player fees annually. Managers are required to collect fees, by cash or check, and submit them to the league treasurer. Any player who has not submitted a fee payment by the end of the second league game will be declared ineligible until full payment is made.

Dinner isn’t quite ready yet

We’re looking at a possible spaghetti dinner fundraiser sometime in January. If the plans come off as they should, details should be available in the next newsletter.

A personal look at our two-year agreement

Ken Bradford

Most of us don’t care about specifics of the agreement made in 2021 to move our league to the Byers complex. We’re happy at Byers. We had our best season ever here, expanding from 11 to 12 teams. We had the usual old-age injuries — pulled muscles, in particular. But the outfields didn’t have puddles or ruts and the infields gave more predictable bounces than we normally had at Normain and Henry Frank parks. Outfielders weren’t looking into the lights of McKinley or the headlights of cars leaving the lots during night games. We weren’t fighting briars or poison ivy to retrieve balls after home runs or fouls. For most of us, Byers clearly is a safer place to play.

At Byers, we had plenty of parking and behind-the-screen seating for families and friends. The restrooms were clean. The concession stands provided better food than we would get in a sack at drive-thrus. We had room to set up chairs and coolers after our games. We were all in the same place at the same time, so we didn’t have to run over to a park a mile away to socialize with friends on other teams. Mosquitos? Few, if any. Byers is a more comfortable place to enjoy our time together.

If the league grows, Byers has room for us. We’re at 12 teams now. If we work together to bring more friends in, we could accommodate 20 teams on the five diamonds every Tuesday and Thursday night without playing past 8 o’clock. If, someday, the junior division expands beyond that, we could have 30 teams playing at 5, 6:30 and 8. Do we want to bring in travel teams from 100 miles away for three-day tournaments? How about a state or regional championship? Byers is big enough for any dreams we have.

Still, some of us want to know about the shorter term. Did our league commit to a two-year get-acquainted period with Byers? The answer is yes, positively. Would there be consequences if we renege on that agreement? Again, yes, positively. We have an outstanding relationship with the Byers staff. It’s a pain in the neck for them, but they put up our home run fences at 250 feet twice a week. We’re the only league that asks them to do that. Our fee of $800 per team covers the costs of umpires, softballs, insurance and other stuff. That’s a discount from what they charge other leagues. The complex takes care of a lot of the league’s headaches. We can just show up and play because we have a great deal.

I have good friends who are planning on leaving our group to join an upstart league in Mishawaka. I wish they wouldn’t. As we get older, a lot of us try to turn back the clock. If we played better while we were in Mishawaka in 2011 or 2021, it doesn’t mean we’ll find some sort of magic back there somehow in 2023. I’ll be 69 years old next summer, whether I play at Byers, Normain or some pickleball court. I’ll run as hard but not as fast. It won’t be Byers’ fault. Our league is big enough that it has a place for me, even if I’m not quite as good as I was last year.

I’ll choose Byers because it’s safer, it’s more comfortable for my wife if she attends games, and it’s where the majority of my softball friends are. I can count on our league being there for many years to come.

I hope to see you all in 2023.

For those who want to see it, I’m attaching a copy of the notes taken for our two-year agreement. I’m willing to answer any question you have about our league at