Will hold exhibition game in Huntersville this month

CHARLOTTE – Go to Park Road Park any Thursday night and you’ll catch a softball game unlike most all others. A group of women, all 45 or older, meet each week to feel the ping of the bats and compete, as their love of the sport hasn’t faded with age.

Gail Engle, Nancy Bolten and Charles Curry, director of Charlotte Senior Sports, designed the Sassy Softball Sister’s senior ladies league in the spring of 2009. Initially designated for women older than 50, the age requirement has been lowered to include more women, and they’re drawing women from across the Charlotte region, including the Lake Norman area.

“I have played softball with and against Gail Engle since 1993, and when she approached me about forming this league I jumped at the chance,” said Nancy Bolten, coach of the Steel Azaleas. “After playing in very competitive leagues here in Charlotte and surrounding area, I welcomed the opportunity to put together a league for older women who just want to play ball and not worry terribly about getting hurt.”

The league consists of four teams, each of which are represented by different bright colored team shirts to symbolize their “vibrancy and enthusiasm for the game.” The team names reflect those colors: the Steel Azaleas in pink, the Lime-aids in lime green, the Luna Chicks in yellow and the Plum Crazies in purple.

Colorful they may be, but poor softball players they are not. Lisa Quinn, coach of the Luna Chicks, was surprised at the skill level of some of the ladies playing.

“We have some (players) that haven’t played in 20 years and are impressive athletes,” Quinn said. “It is pretty amazing to watch someone play at the level they do and then learn they gave the game up 10 or 20 years ago.”

For the Sassy Sisters, playing isn’t about winning, it’s about having fun and competing, though it should be noted that the players who are 55 years and older have competed in the North Carolina Senior Games in Raleigh, as well as in tournaments with other counties.

They also have hosted two tournaments and are in the stages of planning their second Fall Fling tournament in October. The Sisters will host their second exhibition tournament at Bradford Park on Aug. 27.

“It is great exercise,” Bolten said. “It is fun to see the expression on fan’s faces and hear those cheers as we make those fantastic plays or home run hits at our age!”

While bumps and bruises are an unavoidable, Bolten said players and coaches try to make the games as safe as possible, especially for members like 78-year-old Peggy Snipes. Currently unable to play due to health reasons, Snipes played as a pitcher her entire life.

“Betty Davis is another pitcher and player who has been playing at Park Road Park for over 30 years, and she, too, is in her 70s,” Bolten said. “We have about eight players in their 60s. Most ladies are in their 50s.”

Quinn, on the other hand, seems proud of her injury marks.

“For the most part, injuries are self-inflicted,” Quinn said. “Bumps and bruises are common. I have a few right now myself. I take pictures of the good ones and keep them on my phone.”

The ladies are now holding registration for their fall season in hopes of gaining enough ladies to travel to Raleigh for the North Carolina Senior Games again. The fall league fee is $45 and the first 78 players are guaranteed roster positions.

To register go to www.sassysoftball.com and fill out the Player Profile Form.