Since you’re here. You should check out the fastest growing group of beer leaguers: The Beer League Players Association.
I read Bill’s stages of senior league hockey article and it made me think of all the other sports I’ve been involved in and how these stages apply to every sport, not just hockey. So using that article for inspiration I wanted to tweak it a bit for all the ball players out there.
Stage 1 – Generally a guy fresh out of juniors, college or even the minors. Still has that higher level ability that all teams seek to win league championships. You’ll hear things like “what range”, “great hands”, “the ball just jumps off his stick”, “young legs”. This guy is about one thing… Dingers. Well and chicks. Stage 1’s usually don’t have a pot to piss in so don’t expect any financial contribution from this guy – in fact, you’ll be lucky to ever see him bring beer –or chip in for the post game wings. No one cares, especially the Stage 5 guys (see below)
Stage 2 – That mid to late 20’s guy. Been around the league for a few years and is starting to learn how to play the “slo-pitch” game. (aka – not calling off every one on flyballs and not trying to bounce the ball of the outfield wall every at-bat) Still has those “fresh legs” and may actually have a job now which is nice. Trouble is brewing here because they either just have or will be thinking about getting married. (see Stage 3) May not always want to, but has the ability to pay his league fee. Can be counted on to bring beer occasionally as well. These are good times. For both the team and the player.
Stage 3 – Usually in the early to mid 30’s. Still has a lot of ability but is cracking under the strain of life. Kids need attention and the wife is starting to question how a 1 hour game at 7pm ends up with you being home at 1 am. Let’s not forget your job. Remember Stan, one of your customers? You just went into 2nd base cleats up on him to break up a double play. In this stage your stuck between still having that competitive juice but realizing maybe… just maybe winning isn’t everything. This guy will commit to the team, pay the fee and then become generally unreliable. He will commit to the 9am tournament game on Saturday morning but his wife is on him. He bails from the parking lot party and doesn’t come back for 3pm game. Also note, this is usually the stage where you quit telling everyone your batting average or RBI’s from the last tournament.
Stage 4 – Uh oh, what happened to my “bazooka arm”, my “dinger stroke”? Why can I know what to do but my body not do it anymore? I used to hit the catcher from centerfield on the fly. Now I need a cut-off…. 2 cut-off men. These are hard times for most players. You are in your late 30’s or early 40’s and the crushing impact of life and aging have finally taken its toll. You tend to do a lot of apologizing – “Sorry I couldn’t get to that routine fly ball”, “Sorry about not turning that routine double play”, “sorry, about striking out I’ll bring the beer next game”.
Stage 5 – This is the mid to late 40’s guy. Abilities are fading fast and he knows it. Has money and may even sponsor the team because that is really the only way they still let you play. This guy brings beer, food, buys jerseys, and is usually the guy cooking the food during tourney tailgates. – whatever it takes to hang on to that last fleeting moment of glory playing with the better guys. Used to be the guy that you wanted the ball hit his way in the last inning of a close game or wanted at the plate in a big game. Now this guy volunteers to play catcher or even just be the team coach. He’s happy just to be in the dugout to watch the Stage 1 and 2 guys go out there and win it. kids. This is a particularly bad stage if you still think you have the tools to play. The minute you get in the car to drive home you know the whole team is scheming ways to get a new, younger guy on the squad.
Stage 6 – An end and a beginning at the same time. This is the point where it’s finally time to move to the “old guy” division and say good bye to the “open” division forever. Kids are grown, wife no longer cares if you are home or not. You’re now only playing to get out of the house and away from the next episode of “Masked Singer” with your old lady. The good part about this stage is you get to sit and drinks beer with older fellas like yourself telling old stories about your Stage 1 and 2 until the wee hours of the morning. These are good times and your new home until you decide to hang them up completely. This is the stage probably fear the most. However this stage is also one of everyone’s favorite. You don’t really care about winning, the cost, or the drama. You’re enjoying the game because you enjoy the game and if you’re lucky you’re enjoying it with kids. Getting a chance to show the kiddos brief flashes of the ability you used to brag about. You know… legging out that double or laying out for a routine groundball. You might not be able to walk without a limp for a few days but damn it …. You’ll always be a ball player.
Anyone who has played the game can fully understand and appreciate these stages. No matter how good you are or where you played, you’re a part of the game. Every player will progress through these stages and at a different pace. Hell, you might have skipped Stages 1 and 2 and started at Stage 3, that’s ok. Remember the game needs you. Everything you bring in some way makes the game incredible. So please keep playing for the game. Play for the love of the game, play for all the parking lot beers at midnight, play for all the friends you’ll make along the way, most of all play for yourself. You deserve it.