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.
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.
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.
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.
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.