Aug. 7 newsletter

Big week at the ballparks

Even if your team’s not playing, you should keep the middle of this week open on your calendar.

TUESDAY: A big day, in both leagues. At 5 p.m., the final regular-season games in the senior division will have Prep & Polish against O.C. Hardware on the yellow diamond while Unity Gardens plays at Wesolowski on green.

At 6:30, O.C. will meet South Bend Brew Werks on yellow in the play-in game for the senior tournament. As the fourth- and fifth-place teams, only one will advance to the playoffs, which begin Tuesday, Aug. 15.

At 7:30, in the junior division playoffs, also on yellow, PowerHouse will meet Bowlers Country Club in the losers bracket finals. The winner will advance to the title game or games against Putt-Putt on Thursday.

WEDNESDAY: The annual home run derby, which was rained out last month. Competition will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Park, just west of IUSB on Northside Boulevard. The entry fee is $10, with $2 going into a 50-50 fund. Spectators can enter the fund drawing as well.

THURSDAY: The big date to circle. We’ll have the finals in the junior division that night at 6:30 p.m.

Putt-Putt has earned the winners bracket spot and is waiting to see which team it will face for the league title. If the losers bracket team wins at 6:30, a second winner-takes-all game will follow at 7:30.

We want this to be a memorable event. We’ll honor all teams between innings and have Dollar Day at the concession stand. All items – from Oreo ice cream to grilled hamburgers – will be a dollar apiece. We’re hoping to have 100 or more people attending that game. If nothing else, stop by with a few bucks and have a cheap dinner.

What about fall ball?

Adam Kroemer is working with Kirby Whitacre of Mid-American Senior Softball on a combined fall league. Details should be available later this week.

What about the banquet?

We didn’t have volunteers step forward to work on our traditional end-of-season banquet. There is a possibility we’ll throw something together in the next couple of weeks.

If not, the money we typically spent on a banquet is helping pay for Dollar Night at the concession stand on Aug. 10 as well as for pizza and other concession specials at the senior division championship on Aug. 22.

It’s difficult to measure how important the banquet is. We lose money on it every year. When we ask around, some players say they would be happy if we skipped it. If you think the banquet is important, please let your manager or a commissioner know.

Adam is hoping to have some form of a banquet after the season ends. There also may be a golf outing in September and October. We’ll keep in touch.

What about next year’s commissioners?

By Ken Bradford

Usually by this time, we would be announcing next year’s commissioners. The problem is we haven’t found candidates yet.

Commissioners typically serve three years. For 2023, this was my third year, Steve Latzke was entering his second year and Adam Kroemer was beginning his first. Also, we added Steve Sporinsky and Mark Witkowski as interim commissioners to help with the senior division.

Bob Gorny served as commissioner from 2020 to 2022 and has agreed to return to replace Steve Latzke, who resigned to move out of the area. We still need to replace me because my term has expired.

If we choose to, we also could replace Steve Sporinsky and Mark Witkowski as advisers to the senior division. Steve likely will continue to help with league databases, and I can help if necessary with our communications.

This has been a busy year because we needed to do a lot of rebuilding. Ideally, with our new structure in place, commissioners will have fewer issues to handle. If it’s a normal season, a first-year commissioner will attend four or five meetings and be available by text or email to contribute ideas.

The league gets better with new ideas and energy. If you have time to devote, this is a chance to step forward. Please let Adam or Bob know if you’re interested.

It’s not just us there

If you have the opportunity and time, you may want to help at one of the many tournaments held at the Byers Complex.

Last weekend, the diamonds were filled with teen-agers in a national slow-pitch tournament. It’s not quite the game we play – they can steal a base if the ball gets away from the catcher, for example – but these top-tier players can teach us all a lesson about base-running, making throws from the outfield, and being prepared and alert on defense.

The complex pays people to keep a scorebook, operate the scoreboard and announce the batters. For Friday’s games, I saw Dick Helfman, Jim Nace and Bob Fonseca in the press box doing that. It can be a bit hectic, but it feels like you’re part of the game.

We aren’t the only game in town at the complex. Several times a summer, the lots are filled with Winnebagos, the diamonds are lined with tents and the air carries the scent of hamburgers on the grill. Everywhere you look, you see folks young and old enjoying softball.

You can be a part of that. If you’re interested, check in with Gary Duddleson and Rich Sparks.

Senior division bracket

The senior tournament will have a four-team, double-elimination format. The No. 4 and No. 5 seeds will have a play-in game on Aug. 8 to determine which team earns the fourth spot in the bracket. The play-in game will be at 6:30 p.m., at the conclusion of the regular-season schedule. All senior division teams will be off on Aug. 10 and are encouraged to attend the junior division championship games that evening.

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:


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.