That his slowpitch league features men aged 65 and older is nothing new, even locally. However, the league also features women 50 and over and an innovative tiered draft system intended to ensure parity and competitiveness, something Smith believed was lacking in other area leagues.
“I played in a plus-65 men’s league, and the best teams were recruiting the best players, and it was becoming not fun,” Smith, 74, said. “Old people like to have fun. And that’s not to say we are not competitive.”
Smith, an ex-Marine living in Post Falls, said he leaned on another friend and senior player, Stormy Weathers, and formulated the Draft League.
Weathers lives in Medical Lake and is a retired lieutenant colonel from the Air Force, Smith said, and was instrumental in helping fill three teams for the league’s opening season last spring. The league has since expanded to four teams, and games are held every Tuesday morning at Plantes Ferry Park in Spokane Valley.
Smith said all players are divided into tiers before each season. Names in each tier are pulled at random from a hat to create the teams. The result, at least so far, has been competitive balance.
“We had people fill out forms and rate themselves – a 1 if they’re really good at softball, a 2 if they’re mediocre and a 3 if they’re just getting back into it,” Smith said. “Then we drew names and created teams so we weren’t stacking them. … We love to compete, but we want fairness, we want safety and we want to have fun. That’s our three goals.”
Smith said the league began with women aged 55 and over but has since lowered the requirement to 50 and older. He hopes the league will draw more women, and he noted that women are starting at catcher, second base, third base and left-center on his team, the Living Legends. The Codgers, the Silver Bullets and The Other Team comprise the league’s other teams.
“The women have been marvelous. Just marvelous,” said Smith, who praised Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation for its assistance getting the league off the ground.
Smith said there are certain components of senior softball amended to assist older players. Batters can have someone run the basepaths for them, if necessary. Courtesy runners are allowed. A diversion plate is placed near home plate to make sure there are no unnecessary collisions between a baserunner and a catcher.
“There’s no contact,” Smith said. “We don’t want anyone getting hurt. We’re competitive – don’t get me wrong. But there’s not any cussing and no yelling at the umpires. That’s not the kind of stuff we want to inspire.”
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