Choose-up-sides adult baseball: Rediscovering the game you love
When the Cleveland Indians go to spring training, do thoughts of the hallowed game of baseball still bring fond memories of those pick-up games you played, back when wooden bats were all you had and every kid knew how to screw a broken bat back together and tape it with black electrical tape? Or if you’re from a younger generation and your baseball career consisted of organized teams with metal bats, statistics and playoffs and then suddenly vanished after you graduated from high school, do you ever wish you could re-visit that time of your life, just to play a little baseball? If you answered yes, you’re not alone.
So I decided to do something about that four years ago. After playing in an “age-bracketed” league in Akron, and attending the Cleveland Indians Fantasy Camp to celebrate my lifetime love of the sport, I started the Saturday Senior Baseball Program in 2005 for adults 50 and older. The program's primary goal is to give players the chance to play baseball once a week and let the fun of game shine through. No bench-warmers in this program; if you come, you play.
In 2007, several of the participants indicated interest in continuing to play as long as the good weather held, so the group found Brainard Park’s baseball field (in Lyndhurst) available, as summer youth baseball programs finished, and they started to use Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons for game times. As they arrived one Sunday to play at Brainard Park, they found another small, informal group of ball players, mostly ages 25 to 35, playing on the field. Since neither group had enough for two full teams they joined forces and played a true full-team game. A great camaraderie developed among the players. A few games even had a father playing on the same team with his adult son. Games were played through October when Mother Nature finally said, “enough.”
George Cappotto, a fellow teammate and program assistant, and I made three changes to the the program: We offered players the choice of a weeknight and a weekend game; lowered the age limit to 21; and, since it wasn’t just for seniors and wasn’t running on Saturday anymore, changed the name to Choose Up Sides Adult Baseball.
Last year, games began in mid-May and ran through October. The program had its most successful year, with more than 40 players of all ages – both men and women – registering. Players enjoy being able to decide whether they will play on a given Wednesday or Sunday night; and they appreciate the emphasis on playing (not bench-warming) and the de-emphasis on winning at all costs. No scorebook is used; players on both sides keep track of the score. Balls and strikes are called by the catcher. It’s not unusual to hear players on the opposing team congratulating a player on the other team for a good play. In fact, occasionally, the game will end with both teams forgetting the final score.
Other rules used to keep the game moving are giving each team six outs when it bats, though any players on base after the third out must be cleared from each base. Rules can be tailored to the wishes of the majority of players playing in the game. The program’s informal format contributes to the building of player camaraderie and to the fun of the experience. So, if your “baseball juices” are beginning to flow, all you need to do is register and bring your glove. The $60 fee covers all field rental costs, baseballs and equipment, such as batting helmets and catcher’s equipment, and wooden bats furnished by the program. Also, all registered players are eligible to bring a friend, parent, or grandparent for a single game experience at no additional cost. A special single-game contract and waiver is available at the field each game for sign-up of the “single game” player.
Registrations for the 2009 summer season will be limited to a maximum of 50 players. While the program is an equal-opportunity adventure, some previous baseball or fast-pitch softball experience is recommended for safety purposes. You can register for the 2009 summer by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or George Cappotto at email@example.com for a registration form and additional information.
Bob Rink is a 30+ year resident and former finance director of Cleveland Heights and is now semi-retired from the practice of law.