If it’s a Tuesday or Thursday summer morning, and it hasn’t rained, some 430 senior men and women, with vaccination cards in their possession, are playing slowpitch softball on Fairfax County fields as members of the Northern Virginia Senior Softball league.
The league’s motto is: “You don’t stop playing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop playing.”
The NVSS board, chaired by president Marty Pfeifer, 69, closely follows guidelines about how to play during the pandemic.
Beth Hersey, 86, of Great Falls, loves managing her Continental Conference Red Team. “Softball is the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” she said.
Hersey’s 83-year-old husband, George, plays first base for the team. “This is one place where I can tell him what to do,” Beth Hersey said.
The NVSS league began among friends in 1980, and now has summer and fall seasons. Men have to be at least age 50 to join and women 40 and older. Yearly sportsmanship awards are given to one player on each team.
Joining involves no tryout, but instead an assessment of skills, or evaluations of past performances, before a player is assigned to one of 24 teams at three different skill levels.
Wes Gewehr, 73, of Arlington, is the league treasurer and has been playing for 10 years after retiring.
“The camaraderie is the best part of NVSS,” Gewehr said.
Games are played on fields at Wakefield Park, Nottoway Park, and Braddock Park. Players come from Fairfax County and surrounding areas.
Some love to play so much, like Rich Lazanov, 78, of Fredericksburg. He has been in the league for 23 years, driving 50 miles to play.
“Once I get to the ball field and see my friends, I know why I drive this far. It’s worth it,” Lazanov said.
The summer regular season involves seven-inning doubleheader games each Tuesday and Thursday morning from early April until about the middle of August, followed by a double-elimination tournament. The fall season begins the Tuesday after Labor Day, ending with the fall tournament the last week of October.
Championship teams in both the summer and fall receive T-shirts.
Jim Cole, 87, lives in Forestville, Md. He has played in the league since 1998.
“It’s a joy to drive the 33 miles from my home to get to Braddock Park to play, knowing I am on a remarkable adventure of fun and friendship, and besides, keeping me in great shape,” Cole said.
Mike Mele, 74, of Arlington, has been managing the Arlington Gold Team in the American Conference for 11 years. Before joining in 2006, Mele researched NVSS to confirm the league was apolitical and welcomed everyone.
For safety reasons, senior softball has some different rules compared to the regular fastpitch game. For example, when scoring, a runner runs to the scoring plate, located eight feet from the regular batting plate. There are four outfielders instead of three, five infielders instead of four and there is no stealing or bunting.
For Burt Bostwick, 79, of Arlington, joined after retiring from the Navy, he said the NVSS became a great place to make new friends and keep in shape, while doing something he loves.
With conditioning so vital for NVSS players, Ray Steiger, 96, Frank Roberts, 88, and Dave Scheele have been running league training programs for years from November through March. The three point out that NVSS players are not getting dementia or Alzheimer's.
The league’s Website is www.nvss.org. For information, call (703) 663-7881.