The Post-Journal

Thirtysomething Baseball

When a local amateur baseball player reaches the age of 30 it is often time to make decisions. If he wants to continue to play baseball, his only choice is the County-Grape Belt League, which includes players in their teens and 20s, and also ties up his weekends. So he might have to switch to softball. But if he is a baseball purist, that’s not a good choice.

Now a good choice is available.

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The Chautauqua Men’s Senior Baseball League for men 30 and over will begin play in late May in the Dunkirk and Fredonia area and is seeking teams from the Jamestown area.

The local league belongs to Men’s Senior Baseball League, Inc., which is based in California: Its motto is: “Don’t Go Soft, Play Baseball” and expects to have 50 leagues by 1993. A total of 134 teams, including one from the Soviet Union, were involved in its world series last season in Arizona.

Charlie LaDuca, who became interested when he played in a Men’s Senior Baseball League in Buffalo last summer, is the president of the local league.

“I grew up playing baseball,” said the former Cardinal O’Hara and Erie Community College baseball player. “Once I got into the softball mode, I didn’t really miss it. Once I started coaching softball, that’s when I really missed baseball.

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What he missed from baseball were strategies not required in slo-pitch softball such as holding runners on base, the pitch-batter confrontation, pickoff plays, bunting and stolen bases.

“Just all the things the game was meant to be,” he said.

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An opportunity to return to baseball in this area meant playing in the County-Grape Belt League, but that involved games on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

“You can’t tie up the whole weekend when you have a family,” LaDuca said. So that is what he learned about the senior league in Buffalo, which has only one game a week at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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“That’s when I really got the bug,” he said.

Now he’s brought the bug to Chautauqua County. The Chautauqua Men’s Senior Baseball League will have a 12- to 14-game schedule beginning the third week in May. All games will be at 5 p.m. on Sunday at the Fredonia and Dunkirk High School fields and two Chautauqua County umpires will work each game. Right now there are three teams in the league.

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“Down the road I would like to see a couple teams from Jamestown in the league,” LaDuca said.

The oldest player registered so far is 44 and the average age is 36. Each team has a roster of 13 or 14 players, so everyone will see plenty of playing time. And everyone bats because the batting order will always include all the team members.

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There is no problem finding players, but a few are hesitant.

“We want these guys to realize they can still be competitive,” LaDuca said. “There’s a lot of people leary they’ll be overpowered, but that’s not the case.

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However, he quickly added, “It’s not going to be a beer-belly league.”

It will be competitive, but not to extremes, which LaDuca recalls was the feeling in the Buffalo league.

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“It was extremely friendly, but everybody played to win,” he said. “If I could bring that exact atmosphere here it would be great.”

And it would also be great to have a team or two from this end of the county. If you’re interested, call LaDuca at 672-4971.

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.