With the first pitch thrown, the 2019 season of Chautauqua’s slow-pitch softball began for the men’s league this week. The match-up: Arthritics v. Pounders.
The Chautauqua Arthritics bowed out in their first game, losing to the Mayville Pounders, 27-2, Thursday night at Sharpe Field. With a growing youth presence on the team though, the Arthritics are hopeful for the rest of the season.
The Arthritics started out strong, scoring two runs right out of the gate to gain traction over the Pounders.
However, the Pounders responded with force; they scored most of their points in a single inning, forcing the mercy rule to end the game.
Pounders players Josh Bradford and Brian Rodriguez led the team in points, scoring multiple home runs and runs throughout the game. Eric Tarr, Pounders coach, was proud of his team after the game and confident they could continue the strong playing into the rest of the season.
Mike O’Brian, Arthritics coach and outfielder, made a number of catches in the outfield, running into the weeds to end the inning and bring the Arthitics back to bat in an attempt to turn the game around. The Arthritics had good communication and strong plays on defense, but were not strong enough on offense to pull through and win the game.
After the game O’Brian said that while it’s no fun to lose, both teams came out for the love of the game. O’Brian also said it can be hard playing some weeks due to the rotating schedule of players and teams walking on throughout the season.
“It’s always tough getting guys, and you never know who’s going to show up or who’s going to play what positions,” O’Brian said. “So, you just put it together as best you can, you know, people come in and out every week.”
The Sports Club will be hosting men’s league games at Chautauqua’s Sharpe Field this season, and all are encouraged to play. Walk-on players are seen from game to game with a rotating-door policy of whoever wants to play in games on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays every week during Chautauqua’s 2019 season at 5 and 6:30 p.m.
O’Brian and Mark Altschuler, commissioner of the Chautauqua slow-pitch softball league, extend open invitations to Chautauquans and the surrounding area to support, if not join, in the games throughout the season.
Team members range in age from early teens to seniors, like 83-year-old Chautauquan and former Arthritics catcher Donald Nichols, who stopped playing at the end of last year. Nichols said he loved the game, but due to his age couldn’t be more than a catcher.
Situations like this are common for players, but the tight-knit teams don’t let that stop them, batting and running in the place of older team members.
“It’s always interesting playing on this field that has special rules with the grassy field, the outs going over the fence,” O’Brian said. “But it’s great. We all just enjoy coming out and playing. It’s usually a good time, but it does get competitive.”
O’Brian has been playing in the Chautauqua men’s league since the ’90s and said that many players with whom he’s shared the field are still active in the league. O’Brian said he has not missed a season in 15 years and looks forward to another summer of softball.