Love of the game fuels man’s efforts to create adult baseball league in Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Joe Bender’s love for baseball has stretched his entire life.
“I still play a little bit,” Bender said. “I’ve been playing for about 65 years. My dad was big on baseball. That was his sport.”
For Bender, who is 70 now, baseball and fast-pitch softball have been his passion for decades.
He organized a traveling fast-pitch softball team to keep the sport alive locally after the Steamboat Springs adult league ended in 1985. He was able to keep that team going for more than 20 years and also started a Steamboat Springs fast-pitch tournament that took place every summer until 2005 when he handed it off to another organizer.
During those years, he also played adult baseball and eventually put together a team that played regional opponents in the summer.
“Only a few people in the valley realize that there has been real hardball baseball being played between Steamboat, Hayden and Craig teams for the last roughly 15 years,” Bender said.
He is back at it this summer, working to create an adult men’s baseball league in Steamboat that he hopes will be affiliated with the Men’s Senior Baseball League, a national organization with 325 local affiliates, 3,200 teams and 45,000 members, who play organized amateur baseball in local leagues and tournaments.
The Steamboat league will be open to men and women of all abilities, who will play games on Sunday evenings at Howelsen Hill.
“We have two teams so far,” Bender said. “In the past, we have had a Steamboat team, Craig had a team, and Hayden had a team. But all the travel between those towns, finding the right time to get those teams together and the field availability has made it really hard to keep that going.”
So this summer, Bender wants to change up the batting order a little and keep all the games in downtown Steamboat.
“I would just like to see hardball continue,” Bender said. “It would be great if there were four teams, and they could end up playing eight or 12 games a year.”
Right now, Bender only has enough players for two teams, but he is hoping to get more players to come to the plate before the season begins at the end of May. He said he welcomes any adult players no matter how long it’s been since they played or the player’s ability. He wants the games to be competitive, but more importantly, he wants them to be fun.
Players can register by contacting Bender at 970-846-9462 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $50 per player, and the fee is refundable until April 25.
The league will also be holding registration sessions from 4:30 to 6 p.m. April 13 and 20 at Rex’s American Grill & Bar, 3190 S. Lincoln Ave.
“The main thing is to play the game, and we play by all the regular rules,” Bender added. “There is no screwy stuff like you start with a two-ball, one-strike count. We have stealing and bunting and three outs and everything like that.”
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