Dayton’s own senior softball teams run on the passion of their members.
Age is just a number to the men who play on the traveling senior softball teams of Dayton Legends.
“We are still playing a kid’s game, but love it,” says Bob Ewald, president of Dayton Legends.
Creating a senior softball league all started with the vision of two men, George Cuny and Jim Zink. They went on to create a senior softball league for those aged 50-plus who wanted to continue to play after aging out of the open leagues.
“Those guys approached the city, were accepted and got a senior softball league going,” says Wayne Rickey, past president of Dayton Legends.
Their Cuny-Zink American League sparked a new traveling league called Dayton Legends.
Starting with just two teams, Dayton Legends grew to six team s at the 50AAA, 55AAA, 60AA, 60AAA, 65AA, and 70AA division levels that travel and compete competitively.
Dayton Legends is more than just paying dues, though; it’s for the love of the game. And players have to play and play well.
“There still has to be a skill level that has to be demonstrated,” says Rickey. “They have to make a commitment, too.”
Many Dayton Legends players are from the Dayton and Cincinnati areas, but some are from other adjoining states like Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan.
Ewald says when the Dayton Legends recruit, it’s usually from tournament teams or someone inquiring about the teams.
“If someone is looking to join the Legends, they’re looking for something specific,” says Ewald.
Most of the Dayton Legends teams play six to eight tournaments per season with teams consisting of roughly 15 players.
Ewald says Dayton Legends has players from many different professions, like attorneys, judges and others.
“Many of the guys are still working, so we try to get our season schedules set early,” says Ewald.
When asked why many are still playing softball, Rickey says, “Many played when they were younger. It’s not just about hitting it out of the park anymore, it’s about defense, team chemistry and playing ball strategy.”
Senior softball isn’t just for men, however. The Senior Player’s Association (SPA) also has women’s leagues, and Ewald says there is potential for a Dayton Legends women’s team.
As a senior softball league and part of the SPA, there are some extra rules that the Dayton Legends follow. One rule is that each team can only score five runs per inning, but during the last inning, and any extra innings, runs are unlimited.
“It’s a good thing the runs are limited, otherwise the guys would be out all night,” says Rickey. “They are that good.”
Towards the end of the season, one of the most anticipated tournaments is the championship game, where winning teams can buy a ring to represent their success as tournament champions.
“You have to earn the right to wear the ring,” says Jerry Carter, a Dayton Legends player. “It represents what the guys did on the field.”
Each time a Dayton Legends player steps on the field, he knows he is taking a risk of potential injury, but is doing it with a community of teammates and friends supporting him.
“We know it’s a blessing to be playing,” says Rickey.