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Brandon Senior Slow-pitch Softball Flourishes And Celebrates 20th Anniversary

The Brandon Senior Softball Association is celebrating its 20th year of providing the opportunity for senior softball players (men ages 60 and up and women ages 55 and up) to play the kids’ game we love.

With the support of the Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation Department, games are played on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 9 a.m. year-round at the county’s well-maintained regulation fields at the William Owen Pass Sports Complex, located at 1300 Sydney Dover Rd. in Dover. Over 100 players throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties, and even some from up north, gather for batting practice and games in the present eight-team league with competitive balance in a recreational league concept. Batting practice and pickup games are available on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings.


Phil Grassmuck, president of the association, said, “The purpose of the league is to provide for its members so that they may enjoy good fellowship, enhance their well-being through physical exercise, promote 60-plus softball (55 for females) and enjoy playing slow-pitch softball. This league is for fun and recreation.”

From the grand celebration and opening games on August 27, 2003, the league has developed into a caring community, a family of comrades, providing encouragement for retirees to stay active and young in spirit; it’s a little league for old guys with a touch of competitiveness. Nothing beats postgame lunching and domino playing with tall tales of game replays.

It is not unusual when a player becomes ill or injured and has no family nearby for another player to take him in until recovery. The league supports various charitable projects, on occasion makes contributions honoring deceased members and responds en masse for memorial services.

“My favorite part of the league is comradery,” Grassmuck added, “and the fun of the guys playing ball.”

The 20th anniversary party will be held on Tuesday and Thursday, October 24 and 26 at the field, with current and former players, presidents and board members, as well as guests, honoring the league founders and renewing friendships from over the years with lunch and reminiscing after a week of softball skills, home-run derby and all-star games. Current and past league members will also get special shirts.

If you are a player and need a league, friends, fun and exercise, or if you would like more information, visit





So far, we have examined where we are now and how we got here. I would like to finish by taking a look at what the future might hold.


In one respect, participation, the future unfortunately doesn't look as good as the past. We can all see that there are not as many new guys coming in as old guys going out and it has been that way for a long time. Are we doing something wrong? No, it is not our fault. We reach out, we advertise and we have a professional-grade website. A tip of my cap to the guys that I know are responsible for it, Jim Trueman,Paul Gawel and Frank Bayley when he was here and anyone else that I don't know about. No, it's not our fault. Frankly, the game is dying everywhere. There are no new young guys to replace us. They didn't reject us or the BSSA. They rejected softball.


What does this mean to us? It means that from now on the league is going to be those of us at this gathering at this time. Why is that significant? Because it means that the league, as a whole, will continue to grow older. Two consequences of this are that both the quality of play and our health will decline. Is this a disaster? No! It is a golden opportunity and I will tell you why.


As Rich Columbo said before a game, “The older I get, the more I learn about body parts.” In our defense, for our age, we are really good. Perhaps unexpectedly, this is where I believe the league makes a big contribution and its future is its brightest. Our league is not only about exercise and competition. It is also about attitude and selfimage. Truly, we are not as much competitors with each other as we are a band of brothers.


When we get together and talk about our ailments and our body part replacements, we share a journey that is made easier and more acceptable by supportive others just like ourselves who keep trying to make the best of things. It is my impression that not all old people do this. Separation from others and loneliness are terrible debilitators. Our league, on the other hand, is a wonderful support group. No social work agency could ever hope to do as well as we do for each other. When one of us goes down, we all hurt. But we all help, too, with encouragement, concern and camaraderie. To me, this benefit is far greater than merely chasing a ball around a field. I believe the future of the league is still bright.


Doc Balfour

Senior softball league celebrates 20 years



By Taylor Jenkins

The largest senior softball league in Florida, Brandon Senior Softball will hold their anniversary celebration this October.

If you make your way down Sydney Dover Road to the William Owen Pass Sports Complex on any Tuesday or Thursday morning throughout the year, you’ll find a group of seniors that make up one of the largest senior softball league in the state of Florida.

The Brandon Senior Softball League is truly one-of-a-kind, offering seniors an opportunity to play the game they love, stay active and make lasting friends in their community. With over 100 players from across Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties, along with some that come from up north, the league is open to all men over the age of 60 and all women over the age of 50, with enough players to regularly field eight teams that play every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

“I think that the sense of community out here takes precedence over the game,” member Bob Dowdy said. “These guys come out here and you have your cliques and the guys you know and the guys you go to eat lunch and all that stuff, but just as far as getting together with people, it’s great out here. My wife doesn’t call it senior softball, she jokingly calls it daycare for seniors. It gets you out of the house, it gets you moving. You don’t have to be a superstar, just show up, play, interact with all of these people up here, it’s priceless.”

Fellow member Nat Pieper echoed Dowdy’s sentiments on the community built within the league.

“The sense of camaraderie is tremendous,” Pieper said. “You may have a player that loses a wife so all of a sudden he’s alone, but there’s a built in friendship for him here. There’s people that can take care of him for a while until he merges back into being active, there’s just a lot of community action that takes place.”

To create a competitive balance within the league, teams are composed through an alternating draft that gives each team a mix of players that span all different age groups and skill levels, with the league’s average age hovering around 72 years old and their oldest player still participating at 85 – following the retirement of John Wolfe last year, one of the league’s longest-standing players at 95.

“What’s unusual, I think, is that the league has been able to successfully include players of all skill levels and ages,” Pieper said. “We draft every quarter and the teams are all pretty even based on the draft. Everybody’s got some of the old-timers, everybody’s got some of the best players and so we’re able to accommodate everybody. It’s just an attitude that the league has that allows that to happen.”

The fee to join the league is just $25 for the entire year and players are asked to purchase two additional jerseys — a blue home jersey and a great visitors jersey — and a hat, each adding around $10 to the existing fee. Other than that… you bring your own glove, bat and cleats or sneakers and you’re ready to play! With games being played twice per week, along with the option to get out there on Saturdays for batting practice and select days in between for player-run pickup games, the league runs year-round with four different “seasons” in which new teams are picked every three months.

“I’m a diabetic and I use this league for exercise,” said member and former professional baseball player Jose Alcaide. “But also, I was a baseball player all of my life. I played professional ball and I found this group of people here. It’s one big cohesion and allows me to continue playing the game I love.”

With participation regularly dipping in the summer with the hot weather and some participants heading back north, the league is currently at six teams and invites seniors to come out and join the fun as their 20th anniversary grand celebration approaches in August.

Brandon Softball League is welcome to all, with player from varying backgrounds that range from former first responders and police officers and lawyers to former professional baseball players, along with significant representation from the hispanic community within their player base.

“We have people from all walks of life here,” member Bob Dowdy said. “It’s just a great group of people. We get out here and we don’t argue, we don’t do a lot of cussing, although it gets a little testy every once in a while, but it’s just a great group of guys.” 

As part of a long-standing agreement with Hillsborough County, the county adopted the league in its inception, allowing fees to remain low by keeping the field maintained, dragging the field and drawing the lines each day before games and allowing the Brandon Softball League to utilize the facility free of charge.

“Hillsborough County has done a super job for us, along with everyone that uses these fields,” Pieper said. “Getting the county convinced to participate with us and help us.”

“From what I’ve been told, the county said that it isn’t always about the money, but it’s about the community and that’s why they don’t charge us,” Dowdy said. “They just wanted to do something to keep the senior citizens active. My doctor tells me that he doesn’t know what I’m doing, but when I stop doing it I’m going to die, so keep doing it. That’s what it’s all about. We start at 60 and our oldest member is 85.”

If you are curious about joining the league, all seniors are welcome to come out and try it for themselves. Guests can play in two games with no fee before deciding whether or not they want to join. For more information, visit

“You can come out at any time,” Dowdy said. “You come out here any time you want to, we’ll do the paperwork on you and you’ll either be a pickup player or be assigned to a team. If you come out here tomorrow and you want to play, you’ve got your shoes on, you’ve got your bat and your glove, you’ll play.”

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