The association, which was formed with just two teams in the early 1990’s has grown to include more than 400 players in several different skill levels, operates a spring and fall season. Founder Lowell Lawson envisioned a league where older men could play against other players of similar ability levels.
Players, who must be at least 50-years old, come from around the metro-Atlanta area to participate in the slow-pitch association games at Hobgood Park. Participants come from all walks of life.
“We have 80-year olds playing,” said CSSA vice-commissioner Paul Knotts. “Some of them are retired, but most of working guys.”
The most competitive division is the National League. The rules vary some with each division and the National League is the only one that permits stealing and the use of hot bats.
The American League is a step below the National League, with the Masters League and Legacy League rounding out the competition. The CSSA also has a special Monday morning leagues, such as the Senior League and Legends League.
Prior to each season, tryouts are held for new players wanting to join the league, as well as those hoping to move up in skill level. A draft is then held to determine, which players join which teams. Not only can players tryout to move up in the class of difficulty, but they can be demoted as well.
“We are very competitive, but recreational at the same time,” said CSSA treasurer and board member Dewey Hom. “This is like the real world.”
Players take demotions serious and occasionally “retire” as opposed to being dropped down a league.
“A lot of guys take it hard,” said Hom. “At our age, you don’t get better. You just try to maintain what you’ve got and they don’t see that. You don’t get better as 55, 60, 70.”
In the CSSA, softball is serious business. It is overseen by a board of directors including commissioner George Stroh, Knotts, Hom and secretary Glenn Peacock. The CSSA also has a player representative and directors for each league as well as a historian. A banquet is held at the end of each season and awards are passed out.
With approximately 30-50 new players joining each season, the association continues to grows, despite losing those to drop out due to injury, age or relocation. There were 44 new players this spring.
“More and more baby boomers are retiring,” said Hom. “Participation has really seemed to explode over the last five years. The number of teams has doubled in five years.”
Team rosters have between 12 and 15 players with either 10 or 11 players in the field, depending on the league, and everybody batting.
“Every league is competitive,” said Hom. “They say you mellow with each, but once you step between the lines, it’s ‘game-on’ again.”
Knotts said that to his knowledge there haven’t been any serious injuries, but that precautionary rules are in place. There are two first bases and two home plates—one for the fielders to tag and the other for the runner—in order to prevent contact between players.
“We don’t want anyone getting hurt,” said Knotts. “We have rules to keep everyone safe and keep it competitive. We take the game seriously.”