Charlie Mattioli of the Tri-Cities Senior Softball League believes our region is a potential hotbed for senior softball. (Contributed photo)
JOHNSON CITY — "It's never too late to live your dream."
That's the motto of the Tri-Cities Senior Softball League, and the league is looking for more players who want to "live their dream."
"Slow-pitch softball is such an appealing game for senior players," said Charlie Mattioli, spokesman for the Tri-Cities Senior Softball League. "It's a great way for seniors to keep moving."
The rules for senior slow-pitch softball have many safety features to minimize injury, and free substitution is allowed.
The age groups for the TCSL are 60-64, 65-69 and 70-74. Players older than 74 can join and play in a younger age group.
Currently, the league has 32 players committed to play. They meet for batting practice and intra-age games Monday evenings and Wednesday mornings at Winged Deer Park in Johnson City.
"We want to increase our numbers so that we can field competitive teams in each of our age groups here in the Tri-Cities," Mattioli said. "Right now, many of our better players have to travel great distances to find teams to play on. If we can build our league up, we can form our own teams and play in tournaments."
Don Doran has been playing softball for 55 of his 79 years. Last season, Doran competed on the Chattanooga 70-and-older team that earned a gold medal in the National Senior Olympics in Cleveland, Ohio.
Johnson City's Richard Dugger, 76, began his senior softball career with a 50-plus team. Today he plays in the 70-74 age bracket.
Dugger, who says he enjoys the game, the competition and meeting and making new friends, has encouragement for those thinking about playing senior softball.
"When you play at this age, that's what's most important," he said. "Come out and give it a try, it's fun."
Piney Flats' Ron Settle, 68, had quintuple-bypass heart surgery in 2011. Four months later, he was back playing softball.
His advice for newcomers on returning to the game of softball is simple.
"Start off slow, get in shape, warm up carefully and keep up with annual medical check-ups," Settle said. "Softball is a mental as well as a physical game. You have to pay attention, be aware of each situation and know what to do next when the ball is hit."
These are just three of the many great stories that can be found in the Tri-Cities Senior Softball League.
"There are a lot of great guys out having fun playing softball," Mattioli said. "Although we're based in Johnson City, we want to be a regional team and draw players from all of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia."
He sees the region as a possible hotbed for senior softball.
"There are more than 16,000 men ages 60-74 in the Tri-Cities," Mattioli said. "About 10 years ago there were eight senior teams playing locally. We want to see that number here again."
Mattioli also emphasized that the league is not all about playing competitive softball.
"Being highly skilled is not the issue," he added. "We're looking for guys who want to have fun and just play the game. That's what is most important to us."
CrestPoint Health of Johnson City has signed on as the Tri-Cities Senior Softball League sponsor this season.
For more information on the league, visit www.tricitiesseniorsoftball.com or call Mattioli at (423)543-1962.comments powered by Disqus