Midtown: Sports

Senior softball teams play for the love of the game

cgrant@newsobserver.com

A knee replacement and angioplasty can’t stop Graham Stroud.

The 71-year-old still gets out on the softball field, though he admits his favorite position these days is designated hitter.

“Just for the love of the game,” he says when asked why he still plays the sport.

He’s the senior member on a team of seniors.

Graham is the oldest player on the Code Electric/Oakes Grading softball team, which is competing this weekend in the Senior Softball USA Eastern National Championships at Walnut Creek Softball Complex.

All of the men on the team are older than 60, and many have been playing together for 40 years.

“It’s like brothers in the family, and that’s how we build the team,” Stroud said.

They have traveled the country winning state and national titles over the years.

“We’ve been there and done all that high-class competition, but we’re at a lower level now,” said Butch Arnold, 67. “If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. Everybody wants to win, of course, but we’re just having fun playing together now. If we are breathing when we get off the field, we’re happy.”

Code Electric/Oakes Grading is one of 56 teams – men’s and women’s – competing at Walnut Creek. The Wake Forest-based team is the defending champion for its age group in the tournament that is scheduled to wrap up Sunday.

They are one of six Triangle teams competing.

Senior softball begins at age 50 and is split into five-year divisions up to 80.

“I look up to those guys who are 80,” Arnold said.

Both Arnold and Stroud say they’ll keep playing as long as their bodies will allow.

Pain is temporary, but love is eternal, he said.

“I never quit playing but one year since I was 16 years old, so I don’t think I feel it as much as some people,” Arnold said. “We might play nine games this weekend in Raleigh, so after all of that on Monday and Tuesday you’re thinking, ‘What the devil, am I crazy?’ But then you get over the pain, and in a couple of days you’re ready to go again, but you’ve got to love it.”

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