They are not your ordinary grandparents. No mid-morning naps. No broken hips from household falls.
The 20 team members of Maple Valley II are an average age of 66. These senior softball-playing grandmas and grandpas validate their injuries and their need for rest after chasing down a high fly ball and running like lightning (or maybe not quite) around the bases.
Last summer they won the Puget Sound Senior Softball League’s (PSSSL) Recreation Division with a 17-4 win/loss re-cord.
Maple Valley II has a winning mindset. “Way to go team, for stayin’ happy and havin’ fun in the face of adversity,” Coach Ron Stansell emailed the players recently.
Some adversity is due to PSSSL’s controversial decision to pit the seven Competitive teams and six Recreation teams against one another in order to separate the divisions into more equitable skill levels.
Maple Valley II (a Recreation team) quickly lost three games, all to Competitive teams: Sumner 11-5, Renton 12-3 and Mercer Island 19-11. “Runners from Sumner and Renton crossed home plate before we even got to the ball,” said Gene Tuffs, the former coach who started Maple Valley’s first team in 2004. He was amazed at opposition’s speed on base running.
MV II’s first wins came at the Recreation level: Issaquah 5-14 and Federal Way 14-18. That spurred them on to a 12-11 win over Tukwila, a team on a downward spiral (currently 1-5) from Competitive status last year.
Coach Stansell gave out two “game ball awards” to deserving individuals: Judi Kloss, “for making many amazing catches out in the field,” and to Gene Tuffs for “best self-defense catches.” Following dugout comments about the tempo of his reflexes, Tuffs, the pitcher, stared down two back-to- back line drives. He caught the first ball at his nose. The second batter hit back at his mid-section. “One can do fantastic things when it comes to protecting the body,” Tuffs wryly noted.
Protection wasn’t there when Lonny Rodenburg crashed head and shoulder into the backstop. During that game, the Mercer Island catcher tried to tag Rodenburg out instead of simply touching home plate - a violation of the safety rule for avoiding contact in senior league. The medics took Rodenburg away.
Also injured, a player new to the team, Bob Merriman, was in the outfield at a practice session when he chased a long high pop-up. As he turned back to catch the ball, he lost it in the sun. Injuries that will end his ball-playing days altogether included six stitches, two black eyes, broken nose, a skull fracture and sinus issues. “So much for those soft balls,” added Tuffs.
Accolades after the Federal Way game went to Sharon Greenside for a homerun; triples hit by Stansell and Tuffs; some great hits by Rich Taylor, Dick Hansen and Mike Fletcher; and good catches in the field by Nancy Jones and Don McE-niry.
Sponsors of the Rec team will be highlighted on a team banner during the Maple Valley Days parade on June 8. A fiddler hall of famer and former teammate, Darrell Anderson, will entertain with a western band. Sponsors are City of Maple Val-ley, Pinnacle Physical Therapy, 4 Corners Bar & Grill, Red Dog Saloon, All-Service Plumbing, Seabloom Construction, W Real Estate Services; I-5 Driving.com and Greater Maple Valley Community Center.
Team members are Mike Fletcher, Sharon Greenside, Kara Hansen, Dick Hansen, Roger Holtz, Nancy Jones, Roger Jones, Judi Kloss, Mary McDermott, Don McEniry, Tom Patterson, Lonny Rodenburg, Becky Sackrider, Joe Sackrider, John Schlecht, Ron Stansell, Rich Taylor, Gene Tuffs and Craig Vanden Bos.
The community can see both the Competitive and Recreation teams play at home (Patrick’s Field, Lake Wilderness Park) beginning at 9:30 and 11:00 on Thursday, June 6. Team I faces Renton and Team II plays Des Moines I.
Maple Valley I and II have a must-see home game for friends and family with a match-up between the two on Tuesday, June 11, 10:00.
The seeding part of the 2-part season ends on Thursday, June 13 when Bellevue and Maple Valley II face off at home, 10:00.