TOM LYONS ARTICLE -Herald Tribune 9/30/16
"THE FRED FRANK AWARD"
The first recipient of the 2010 Award was Fred Frank. The Award was created in his name because of the many years of service that Fred gave to the Association. Fred helped to make it grow and was the consummate cheer leader & recruiter, helping new members when they joined the group.
Frank Laudano was given the 2011 Fred Frank award for his many contributions to the Association, including his establishment and operation of this website.
The winner of the 2012 award was Jim Grams who for years served as SSSA Treasurer and continued to pitch successfully as he approached his 80th birthday.
Subsequent winners of the award have been former Association President Bob Vandergrift who made signal contributions to the establishment of improved management and draft procedures; George Hawley, former President, active player and manager, and co-webmaster; Joe Skelly, Gary Olson, Jay Wolfinger, and Rex Sutherland
SSSA - Self Reminders (from Blair)
We’re all over 55. Most of us are in their 60s & 70s. Some in their 80s. We are blessed to be able to participate at all at our ages. We all know of those who have been denied this opportunity.
We said we wanted to play for the fun of it. Does that still hold true?
We all have bodies that are slowly declining in strength, flexibility & coordination. Physical errors are inevitable. Everyone needs to be commended for their efforts.
We all have minds that, on occasion, fail to register current information and process it appropriately. Mental errors are inevitable. Everyone needs to be commended for their efforts.
We are all human beings. We are prone to emotional outbursts. These outbursts say more about the person melting down than their perceived target. If I am the target, try not to take it personally. Tolerance is a wonderful human attribute because I never know when I’ll be the one who is being tolerated.
The composition of our association has one week’s opponents being the next week’s teammates and vice versa. Each game is not - us versus them. It’s - us versus us.
Honesty quells all dissension. If I am sure I am out, I will admit it. Otherwise, I will accept the umpire’s call. If I wanted to spend my day arguing, I would have been a politician.
We have much less time in front of us than behind us. Do I want to spend that time in anger and resentment or in honesty, acceptance, tolerance, and gratitude?
I can’t get ahead if I’m getting even.
I have not met one player in our association who is not harder on themselves after a mistake, than anyone else could be. Each of us is doing our very best at every given moment of our games.
There are no MLB scouts in the stands! The majority of the spectators are there for any or all of 3 reasons.
They are family or friends there for moral support and/or transportation to urgent care.
They are baseball fans and are amazed by the frequency of highlight reel plays of Seniors.
They find a Keystone Cops quality of entertainment in our attempts to recapture our youth. My best friend calls it “old men playing Little League baseball”.
To quote one of my SSSA heroes Bo Bowman, in any given situation, if I am upset by what I have done or what anyone else has done, I need to remind myself “It’s Senior Softball”. Walk away. Take a deep breath. Let it go. Then, “Play Ball”!
PITCHING SLOW PITCH SOFTBALL
It's harder than it looks...
When the time rolls around for the Sarasota senior softball winter league drafts, key Board of Director members have a lot of hard work to do. The driving principles are to make sure that everyone who signs up for the draft gets on at least one roster with care being given to day of week preferences and that managers have the best information possible regarding availability dates, position preferences and skill ratings in order to promote parity. A great deal of effort is put in the collection of player data sheets (It is vital that these be filled out online on the Association website at www.sarasotaseniorsoftball.org or on a paper form and turned in well ahead of the October draft meetings.)
Skill ratings are numbers from 1-12 that are assigned to players based on Board member subjective assessments and updated by each league's team managers at the end of each summer and winter season. Draft lists are produced for each league with players of equal ratings listed as groups in alphabetical order. Managers select from their league's list in a randomized order to help achieve parity after themselves being assigned positions in the draft order. Pitcher selection is often an exception to the rule. Sometimes pitchers are selected in a separate draft to make sure that one team doesn't get more than their share, possibly leaving another team "pitcherless". It isn't a perfect system but overall has served the Association well for several years now. (Snowbirds are another special category but that's another story.)
Pitchers turn out to be a relatively few in number and need special handling because there aren't that many who profess to have the necessary skills. They are something like whooping cranes or California Condors. This may be hard to understand when one thinks about tossing a 12 inch softball in a gentle arc toward home plate. How hard can it be? Moreover, idiosyncrasies are tolerated for pitchers that might otherwise be a subject for derision or worse: Guys who show up late habitually, guys who disappear for weeks at a time in the middle of a season for elk hunting trips, guys who can barely walk to first base let alone run, guys who love to spend half the game arguing that their pitches aren't illegal. Why are such antics excused for pitchers. There has to be a reason or two.
First of all pitchers have to be either fearless or crazy to end up 40 feet from home plate dodging line drives traveling more than 90 miles per hour off illegal bats. Not everyone can do that, even though the use of pitching screens is mandatory. They are kind of like seat belts. They only work if you get behind them which is kind of tough to do in 300 milliseconds anyway. But there's more to it than that.
Pitchers have many constraints on their art, similar to pianists with only 88 keys, only worse. First of all, it is required to toss the ball in such a way that, if not hit, it bounces off some part of a plywood rectangle approximately 34 inches deep by 17 inches wide from a distance of 45 to 51 feet away. That's a distance precision of about 3/45 or less than 7%. The angular precision is even more stringent at about 1.9 degrees of arc. Try that with a wind gusting at 20 miles per hour. To make it even more difficult, cagey old hitters seldom seem to help by offering at a ball that is more than a millimeter or two off. One has to be psychologically strong to watch in dismay as a fourth ball just misses the board with the lead off man on deck and be able to rebound in an attempt to redeem one's self from the sin of a walk.
Would that the above were the only issues for a pitcher to handle. Did I mention two outfielders colliding under a routine fly ball on what would have been the third out with the bases loaded or other miscues? Hey, it's senior softball. You can't be expected to pick up every routine grounder and actually get the throw all the way to first. One out of three isn't too shabby. In 14 innings on any given playing date senior softball pitchers throw over 150 pitches. It makes major league pitchers look like wusses. It doesn't help when you throw the first pitch in an inning for a ball, followed by a chorus of encouragement from one's infielders: "Get it over." or "Just throw strikes." or "Make him hit." But it's harder than that.
There are arc limitations on pitches. A legal pitch must reach a peak height of a minimum of six feet and a maximum of twelve feet. Are you kidding me? God forbid you should throw a ball 11 feet, 13 inches. Worse than that, the umpire's call is completely subjective. "Illegal" rings out across the field after a perfectly respectable pitch that thumps on the board fruitlessly, the hitter smiling at his teammate, the umpire. That's why pitchers prefer to have the opposing pitcher as umpire at home plate. Only they appreciate the angst that evil word creates. What's the point in arguing the call? It's the pitcher's word against the umpire. Who would you believe? The same goes for flat pitches that barely reach six feet. The cry of "AFLAC" emerges from the bench jockeys, a euphemism for flat that only encourages the umpire to continue to be overly critical. Hey, it's only a game...
Here are some interesting numbers derived from the physics of pitching a softball: in order to have a 4 inch diameter ball travel at a maximum height of between 6 and 12 feet and hit a board extending from about 45 to 48 feet from the pitching rubber, one must launch the ball in an initial angle of about 10 degrees to about 30 degrees from the horizontal at an initial velocity of between 56 and 39 feet per second (30 mph equates to 44 feet per second.). Assumptions include ignoring air friction and that the ball leaves the pitcher's hand at a height of 3 feet off the ground. Simple, right? Or "easy peazy", as my wife likes to say before chipping a golf ball from a foot of rough to within 6 inches of the pin. Any volunteers?
Sarasota Senior Softball Association