Golden Seniors Softball Club of Sacramento practices at Howe
Park in preparation for the new season. —Spectrum photo by Ted Gallagher
Senior Softball Club Kicks Off the Season
Morganstern was bitten by the baseball bug early in life. As a
teen, he played hardball in a police athletic league in Long Island,
N.Y., then played softball while he was in the service. He remained
a diehard fan through the years and never stopped loving the thrill
of putting on a mitt and running onto the field.
So when he turned 50, making him eligible to join the Golden Seniors Softball
Club of Sacramento — the biggest softball league of its kind in the country
at that time — he jumped at the chance. Thirty years later as he approaches
his 81st birthday, he’s still playing, and he has no plans of stopping
anytime soon. Judging by his talent level, he probably won’t. He plays
outfield on an over-60 team with guys up to 20 years younger.
He’s just one of about 425 other current Golden Seniors players, who will
play every week starting now through September. Some come for the camaraderie.
Some come for the exercise. Some are former college or professional ball players
or coaches and still have the urge to play, and others just love the game.
Some of the best players, like Morganstern, also play in traveling tournament
leagues. He’s a member of a major-level team, the Elk Grove Renegades,
one of the nine in the country for ages 80 and over.
But Golden Seniors differs from such leagues in that it’s geared more toward
fun and less toward cut-throat competition. The nonprofit organization is set
up and run by people age 50 or older who simply enjoy playing recreational softball.
When enthusiasts get too frail to play, many still come out and coach, manage
or keep score, and even just watch and cheer on the players.
“Sure, they can argue a blown call with the best of them, but they have
great camaraderie and it’s a reason for some of them to get out of bed
in the morning and get out of the house and go do something,” says Ron
Roach, longtime member and newsletter editor.
Helping to ensure the “laid back and friendly” atmosphere is the
fact that new teams are formed each season. “Sooner or later you play with
and against everyone, so it stays pretty friendly,” Roach says.
That’s not to say some aren’t pretty darn good. “You’d
be surprised at the caliber of play,” Roach says. “We have guys well
into their 70s that can hit the ball over 300 feet. More than one is a member
of the softball hall of fame for Northern California.” At one time they
had a player in his 90s who still moved so fast he played in the outfield.
There are also some who have little skill, but the league is set up to accommodate
all levels. When new players sign up, they indicate on their applications their
previous softball experience and go to informal “tryouts” so leagues
can form teams that are evenly matched.
While no teams are co-ed per se (evenly split with half men and half women),
many have both men and women. But women players are sparse and Roach wishes the
league could attract a few more.
“There are women in this league who are far from being the weakest player
on the team,” he says. “If you’re fortunate enough to draft
one to play anything other than catcher, it’s like finding a diamond in
The club has six different leagues: three night leagues, Tuesday, Wednesday or
Thursday, for players at least 50 years old, two Tuesday morning leagues for
players at least 60 (playing at the Sacramento Softball Complex near Watt and
I-80) and a Monday morning league for ages 70 and older (playing at Howe Avenue
Park) that draws players into their early 90s.
The Golden Seniors gives players a lot for their money. Dues are $115 per player
for the entire season starting with a couple of practice games in mid-March and
running to mid-September, working out to about $5 per game. This includes perks
like uniforms, umpires and scorekeepers.
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The club not only follows the Senior Softball USA rules, but
has a Code of Ethics and has added safety rules of its own.
“We really pay attention to safety and the health of the players,” Roach
says. They have to. “Some diehards have heart attacks or have hip or knee
replacements and they’re back playing in no time. They just can’t
give it up,” Roach says.
To reduce broken bones, wear and tear on knees and ankles and pulled muscles,
the club bans sliding and instead lets runners run through each base, has a
separate scoring line next to home plate to avoid collisions with the catcher,
pinch runners from home plate to first base.
The club also prepares for the worse. Defibrillators and other first aid equipment
are on hand at each game and the club has first aid and CPR training every
year. Those who pass the class wear red hats at games so they are easily identifiable
to call for help.
“There’s definitely people alive today because of it,” Roach
says. “A couple of years ago, an outfielder collapsed.... They did CPR
on him and shocked him back to life. The doctor said there’s no way he
would have made it otherwise.”
How the Golden Seniors started exactly is “sketchy” because the founders
are no longer around and the details were passed down through word of mouth.
However, Morganstern, who has been a member since 1983, knows the basics. He
recalls that the late Charlie Lee was one of two men largely responsible for
the club’s formation in either 1976 or ’77. To seek help with drawing
up a senior softball association charter, the men contacted the Kids N’ Kubs
Senior Softball Club in Saint Petersburg, Fla., a group that started about 1930
for players mid-70s and older.
The Golden Seniors founders opened the club to players 50 or older and recruited
enough to form a team. As word spread and it began to catch on, teams were
By the time Morganstern joined, there were between 160 to 170 players. “It
really took off because there were a lot of ex-ball players who still had the
urge, including me.”
The club started playing Tuesday nights in Tahoe Park, but it eventually grew
to four games each night Tuesday through Thursday, he recalls. By around 1986,
the Sacramento Softball Complex on Watt Avenue had been newly constructed and
the club moved many of their games there.
Morganstern recalls the Golden Seniors’ inaugural games there: The team,
The Graduates, consisted of players 75 and older. Their opponents were Kids N’ Kubs
players they had invited to fly out from Florida and play a best-two-out-of-three
series. “They returned the favor too. I believe The Graduates were invited
by the Kids N’ Kubs to Florida to play in their home park within a few
years,” Morganstern says.
By the early 1990s, the Golden Seniors hit its peak, with more than 600 members.
But then senior softball clubs formed in nearby suburbs like Roseville and
Lincoln Hills and siphoned away some players. Today, the Sacramento region
with senior softball opportunities.
Family support makes all the difference for diehards, Morganstern notes. “It
makes playing the game so much easier, because once the season starts, it kind
of dominates your time,” he says.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be with them, but as long
as I’m able to run a little bit and swing the bat, I’ll hang in there.”
Even though most of this year’s teams have already been formed, it’s
not too late for those interested in playing this season. The Golden Seniors
draw from waiting lists all season long since players often drop out before the
season’s end for various reasons. These players will pay a pro-rated fee.
For more information, visit the website,
or call Tom Sansone, club president, at (916) 686-1654, Linda McCollum-Greene,
agent, at (916) 391-5559 or leave a message on the club’s answering machine
at (916) 491-1721.
DuBois is a freelance writer in West Sacramento.
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