Summer Nights: Senior Softball In Huntington Beach, Calif.

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Senior Softball USA has 33,000 members and is growing. As part of our Summer Night series, we head to southern California, where the Mightys play. It's a group of senior women who love the sport and love to swear in excitement. But no chewing tobacco.


Nothing suggests summer like a game of softball. As part of our Summer Nights series, we're visiting Murdy Park in Huntington Beach, California, for a game of senior women's softball. It was a game between the Mighty's and the Misfits. Gloria Hillard reports.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: All right. Let's go, ladies.


GLORIA HILLARD, BYLINE: It's game night, and the Mighty's team dugout is stacked with the usual gear - bats, gloves, knee guards and homemade oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies. Diane Hein, second base, grabs her cleats. At 71, she's the oldest player on the team and still in love with the game she's played since grade school.

DIANE HEIN: The competition, the playing, to see that you can still do it, you can actually bend over.


HEIN: What is it, a way of life girls?


HILLARD: Pitcher Pat Craig, two months shy of 70, says once she thought maybe she should stop playing the game.

PAT CRAIG: And then I go, nah, I can't quit.


HILLARD: On her hand is one well-worn glove.

CRAIG: When you find a glove you like, you have a tendency to stay with it as long as you can.

HILLARD: When you find a game you love, you play it as long as you can. It's a perfect summer night with a touch of orange in the sky. The umpire sweeps home plate.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Here we go ladies. Play ball. Good luck to both sides.

HILLARD: The Mighty's, in bright turquoise T-shirts, are up first. The Misfits, in red, take to the field. The pitcher winds up.





HILLARD: In senior women's softball, there are only seven innings and a few tweaks to the rules for safety sake. As manager for the Misfits, 65-year-old Pat Bushman plays all positions. She says, unlike the boys of summer, the women of senior softball play all year, including winter.

PAT BUSHMAN: We use to joke when we were in our 40s and 50s that, you know, let's have the hot flash, and we'll all get warm out here. But we're kind of past that now.


HILLARD: It's a time when camaraderie trumps competition. Sylvia Salazar started playing 12 years ago following the death of her husband.

SYLVIA SALAZAR: I just feel that it's all about being able to enjoy each other, and it's like a family. I mean we take care of each other.

HILLARD: And they play a really good game of softball.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Come on, Elaine. Come on, Elaine. Don't hit like a girl.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I bet you can (unintelligible) used to play that game.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: All right, Elaine, clobber it. Hit it where they ain't.




HILLARD: It's a grand slam. Cheering from the sidelines are John and Susie Seawright, self-described senior women softball groupies.

JOHN SEAWRIGHT: I love coming out here and watching them because partly I know the ladies. You can hear them from here, and some are a little saltier than others.

SUSIE SEAWRIGHT: This is the generation - these women had to fight for their rights to play ball. And so watching them out here, they are fierce. They are ferocious. And it's so much fun. This is so much better than TV.


HILLARD: It's the top of the seventh.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Who bats after Diane?

The other team.



HILLARD: In the last inning, both teams scored two runs. The Mighty's take it, 13- 9, and then they all took to the field for a high-five.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Nice game, ladies. Nice game. Nice running, you.

HILLARD: They head back to the dugout. The sun is just setting. Gloves tucked under their arms. It was time for pizza and beer. For NPR News, I'm Gloria Hillard.

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