Ottawa YMCA offering slow-pitch softball program for men over 60, women over 50

All skill levels welcome for 60-and-over men, 50-and-over women

Over the years, has your golf swing ever reached the success you had “back in the day” with your slow-pitch softball swing?

Have you always thought, “Boy I’d like to play slow-pitch softball again?”

Well ... the chance and time is now.

Registration is underway for the Ottawa YMCA Senior Summer 12-Inch Softball program, and time is running out to sign up with a deadline of July 11.

The seven-week program is open to men older than 60 and women older than 50 years of age. A minimum of 20 participants is required for program to run.

Those interested must sign up at the Ottawa YMCA service desk at a cost of $60 for Ottawa YMCA members and $90 for nonmember program participants.

Ottawa’s Mark Zeitlin, who said he spends his Illinois winters in Naples, Fla., to beat the snow, but also be closer to his daughter and grandkids, is behind the idea to start the program.

Zeitlin, who in the winter months plays in a 62-and-over league and also a 50-and-over that’s “a little more competitive” in Naples said there are a pair of 90-year-olds and 13 80-year-olds still playing in those leagues.

He’s hoping area seniors will take advantage of the program and sport that was popular for many years in Ottawa and surrounding communities in the Illinois Valley.

“This is a program for seniors to stay active and get off the couch,” Zeitlin said. “To me, we are all not golfers – I get on the golf course, and it’s ‘hit a bad shot, get back in the golf cart, hit another bad shot,’ and so on. We are hoping that some around the area maybe feel that same way, but have also played slow-pitch softball in the past and would love to have that experience again.

“This is a first-time thing and just a casual setting. Hopefully there will be enough interest that it’s a success this year and grows the next year.”

This co-ed program will be held at Ottawa’s Lincoln-Douglas Park South Field [also known as June Gross Field]. Play is scheduled to begin Wednesday and will be on Wednesdays and Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m. through Aug. 26.

Zeitlin said that much like his leagues in Florida, the program in Ottawa will feature rules that will hopefully make the game fun and limit injuries.

“Along with playing the game and having fun doing it, the most important thing is preventing injuries,” he said. “We will have a second first base [safety base] and two home plates. So if that runner is coming around third trying to score, he runs to the safety plate that’s 10 feet away. If the ball gets to the catcher with his foot on home plate before the runner, it’s just like a play at first base. It will also be the runner’s responsibility to avoid any possible collisions on the base paths, as in once you see they are going to be forced out, they need to veer off.”

Some other rules that will be used include:

• No sliding or stealing.

• Bases 70 feet apart, and an outfield line will be drawn 180 feet from home plate for outfielders to remain behind until ball is hit.

• Screen in front of pitcher for protection.

• Composite bats are allowed (BPF = 1.21).

• Teams will be chosen alternatively by hitting/fielding or dealing cards.

• Balls and strikes are not called except on: (A) a swing and a miss; (B) a foul ball; (C) a third-strike foul, which is an out; or (D) any foul tip that is caught.

• Five-run mercy rule per inning unless losing team can catch up for tie, with last inning (seventh) being “all you can get.”

• Pinch runners allowed for injury or disability.

For information, visit ottawaymca.org or email Kelly Petterson at kellypetterson@ottawaymca.org or call 815-433-2395 or 815-481-1233.