All baseball teams have something in common, and slow-pitch softball is no different. All slow-pitch softball teams have an “old guy.” In the case of the Los Lunas Men’s Softball League National Division-leading Royals, their old guy stands on the mound and gets softballs hit at his head. Whenever the batter can hit it, that is.

As near as anyone can tell, the Royals’ self-proclaimed old guy, Dave Chavez, has been playing softball in Los Lunas for more than 20 years. He attributes his success on the mound to his experience.

“You just have to learn the batters,” Chavez said. “Knowing the batter and knowing where to pitch him is the key.”

As the pitcher of the Royals, Chavez and his teammates have allowed fewer runs than any other team in the league, giving up only 59 runs in their first 10 games. The next closest team has allowed 80 runs.

So why are Chavez and the rest of the Royals so good?

“We just remember that this is a fun game,” Chavez said. “We’re all friends, and we stick together. We don’t get mad at each other. Actually, it’s more like a family environment.”

This easy going family atmosphere helps Chavez to stay relaxed on the mound and not worry about what’s going to happen to his next pitch.

“If I walk someone, which I rarely walk anyone, or give up a home run, it’s like ‘who cares?'” Chavez said. “It’s the same if someone makes an error; we don’t get down on each other and get mad.”

Recently, the league switched from ASA rules to USSSA β€” a switch that affects the pitcher more than anyone. USSSA allows the pitcher to try to fake out the batter with a hesitation move or other type of deception. Despite this rule, which gives an obvious advantage to the pitcher, Chavez doesn’t do any of that fancy stuff.

“If they hit, they hit,” Chavez said. “I just try to get the ball over the plate.”

As a pitcher, Chavez plays the most dangerous position on the field.

“It’s important for the pitcher to get the ball over the plate in this league,” Chavez’ teammate Josh Kearns said, “but he also has to have really quick hands, so he doesn’t get killed off a hard hit. Pitcher is the closest position to the batter, and they get a lot of hard shots up the middle. I’m surprised a lot that those guys don’t get killed by those shots.”

Standing only about 30 feet from the batter is the one thing that Chavez worries about on the field, but, over the years, he’s gotten used to it.

“I enjoy playing pitcher OK, except for the line-drive,” Chavez said. “It’s very dangerous out there.”

Even if Chavez were to give up more walks than he normally does, or even if he allows a home run or two in a game, he does have some room for error. The Royals give him plenty of run support. The Royals score almost three times as many runs as they allow.

The league’s All-Star Game is on the Fourth of July. And there’s a good chance that the Royals’ “old guy” will be toeing the slab for the National Division team.

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Tony McClary