There are certain quintessential smells and sounds of a softball game. The boom of a bat hitting a ball and the whizzing sound it makes as it hurls into the sky, the shouts from rowdy fans taunting, “hey pitcher, pitcher,” and the smell of freshly cut, green grass all conjure up images of the sport. However, not all softball games look the same, and the Mercer Island Rockers are a testament to that.
The Mercer Island Rockers are a senior softball league team made up of mostly Mercer Island residents. The team has been around since the early 1980’s when parks and recreation departments from four different cities, including Mercer Island, created the co-ed league.
Their season runs from the first week of May and extends until the last week of July. The team also participates in a tournament the second week of August.
The Rockers play games every Tuesdays and Thursdays. Home games are played at Feroglia Fields at the in Mercer Island.
Out of the 18 players who are on the team roster, six are women, and all of the players are at least 50-years-old, which is the minimum age requirement.
The league has a number of rules. In order to play, each team needs three women on the field during every game, and because the players are older, there are many rules to ensure safety.
According to Coach Alan Anderson, men hit larger balls than women, and there are strict limits on the kinds of bats the players can use. Certain kinds of bats are “hotter,” he said. Sliding is not permitted and players have to run by bases instead of to them in order to avoid collisions.
“Every year, new rookies touch home plate,” said Anderson. “Then they’re out.”
Despite the rules, lots of injuries occur because “players are old and fragile,” joked player and former coach John Weinberg.
What players forget when they’re out in the field is that they have “20-year-old minds and 60-year-old bodies,” said Anderson.
The co-ed senior league has 14 teams from 12 different cities. The league is divided into two divisions, an upper and a lower division. Anderson tried to create a second Mercer Island team last year but was short players.
Recruiting players, especially women, has proven to be difficult, because players decide that softball isn’t right for them or they feel too old. “We’re always looking for players,” he said. “This is the only league that gives the opportunity for [senior] women to play.”
The team is currently second in their division, following Maple Valley. This season, they’ve won nine games and lost six.
It’s a riot watching the Rockers play. They cheer each other on, look out for one another and give each other hell if they mess up. They never hold back.
For more information about the team or for a full listing of the 2012 schedule, visit their website.