Ray Belak, 72, of southeast Las Vegas watched recently from the bleachers at Lorenzi Park as about 15 of his teammates played baseball.
Belak is a member of the Las Vegas Senior Softball Association and has been playing at the park for about 20 years, he said.
“I recently had a knee replacement, so today I’m just watching, but this gives me a way to keep moving,” Belak said. “I need to get out of the house, and this allows me to do that. Friendships are my favorite thing about it. We talk about a lot of things. I’ve made lifelong friends playing here.”
The Las Vegas Senior Softball Association was founded in 1977 and was made official around 2001, according to CEO Jim Whipple. The association consists of more than 400 men and women ages 40 and up, with the oldest active player being 90.
“A lot of our members don’t have any other activities to engage in,” Whipple said. “They come here rain or shine because they’re not sure if they’ll be here for the next practice. Many of them have no social interaction because everyone’s passed and they don’t have a group to get involved with.”
Whipple became CEO in July 2018 and served as president three years before that. The organization is looking to recruit more seniors and offer services to veterans.
“We make sure whoever comes out enjoys it,” Whipple said. “We want to get more seniors in the surrounding area out here — people who visit Derfelt Senior Center and are looking for activities.”
In September, the organization is hosting its eighth annual Las Vegas Senior Softball Association/Senior Softball-USA World Masters Championships. Whipple expects it will draw more than 11,000 players representing 600 teams from more than 45 states, as well as Washington, D.C., five Canadian provinces, Germany, Panama and Guam. The championships run from Sept. 19 through Oct. 7.
“We’re trying to expand our reach any way we can,” said Laurie Buchman, president of the Las Vegas Senior Softball Association. “Seniors now include much younger folks — people in their 40s. A lot of them no longer qualify for the adult leagues, so all of a sudden they’re turned away and left out there hanging in the doughnut hole. We’ve opened our doors to them because that’s our future. We’ve been really concentrating on bringing them in.”
If you go
Admission to the games is free, excluding the game Sept. 23 at the Big League Dreams softball complex, which is $6. The tournaments will be played at several sports complexes across the Las Vegas Valley, including Arroyo Grande Sports Complex, Desert Bloom Park softball complex and Sunset Park softball complex.
World Masters Championships schedule
Men’s 55 and 60 age division
Men’s 65 through 85 age division
Men’s and women’s 40 masters division
Men’s 50 division