Play ball! |

Play ball!

It’s time to lace ’em up and grab the leather – the 1997 softball season is here.

More than 630 players will compete on 42 teams in 325 games in seven leagues this summer. Before the last call of, “you’re outta there,” in late August, as many as 6,825 outs and 20,000 pitches will be recorded.

All in all, it should make for an exciting summer of action.

“We’re ready to go,” said John Collins, city recreation supervisor. “We’re getting an early start and the fields are in great shape. Everybody participating is looking forward to a great season.”

This season marks a trend in recreational softball – two coed leagues. The ever-growing facet of the sport has spawned “competitive” and “recreational” divisions. Last year, there was just one league.

“The ability level from top to bottom was too diverse and some of the players got discouraged,” Collins said. “There are a lot of companies (sponsored teams) with employees that just want to get out there for the fun of it.”

Dave Ellis, the coach of the recreational league’s “Zephyr Cove Resort” team, said he agrees with having two different leagues.

“Basically, the coed league last year had four teams that were quite good,” said Ellis, whose team didn’t win a game last year. “Teams like ours were out for a good time and the fun of it. It’s still competitive, but it’s just not the pressure cooker like it was last year – it’s not a must-win situation. We use the league to create unity amongst the employees. It’s nice to have one function where we can all get out and have fun together.”

Competitive league player Tim Cain agreed in principle with Ellis.

“There’s a lot more stress put on batting averages and winning. We try to field the best possible team,” he said. “Safety also is a big concern. Personally, I try to swing as hard as I can every time. And there are a lot of women who hit it even harder than the men do. I’d hate to hit it right at someone who maybe doesn’t have the ability level to safely make the play.”

In addition to the coed leagues, there will be men’s A, B, C, D, and Over-30 divisions. Gone are the men’s Over-40 and Women’s C leagues. Collins said the interest in the Women’s C division has dwindled with the addition of a Douglas County league and the lack of young players coming in.

“Two years ago, we had a women’s A and C league. Last year, there was just a C league. We offered the league again this year, but only three teams showed interest and we can’t have a league with just three teams. Also, we haven’t had a large influx of young people. That actually goes for all leagues.”

Games for all teams will be played at the South Tahoe Middle School and Bijou Elementary School. Again, each division will crown a league and playoff champion.

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