May 2012

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live in a man's world Ray Blum and By Sarah DeRoo They joke that it feels like they met centuries ago, but the truth is Madisonians Ray Blum and Bob Ruhland met just a few decades ago—during their kindergarten years, to be exact. The grade school friends—now 65 and 64, respectively—headed to different high schools and different paths in life, but one thing always brought them together: Sports. Both avid baseball and softball players, it was the spirit of com- petition and the pull of friendship that kept them coming back. Keeping that same spirit alive led them to launch the Greater Madison Senior Softball League. A little dream that started with an idea, the league has since grown to include a corporate sponsor, nearly 200 players and a full season of games. No, these grade- school buddies aren't just sitting around reminiscing about the glory days, they're living them. How did the idea for the Greater Madison Senior Softball League come together? Blum: Well, I hadn't played in about 40 years. Ruhland: And I hadn't played in about eight years. Then Ray got this idea. [laughs] Blum: I live in Fitchburg, near McKee Farms Park. One day I saw some people playing softball and just got the itch to play. So I called up Bob and he said he'd like to play again, too. We started looking for a senior softball league in Madison, and there wasn't one. The closest was in West Allis, near Milwaukee. We drove there and saw how much fun they were having. Then we decided to start a league. Was finding players difficult? Blum: We called old friends and they were interested. Then Wis- consin State Journal columnist Doug Moe wrote an article about it and people just came out of the woodwork. Ruhland: The phones started ringing, we got e-mails left and right. The first year we thought the most we would get would be three teams. And we got eight. Then last year we went to 10 teams. It was incredible how it took off. So the "if you build it, they will come" idea does hold up! What was the reaction of people interested in playing? Ruhland: 'Where has this been?' I've heard that comment, and a lot of the players' wives are saying, 'This is the best thing that could Bob Ruhland On the softball diamond, age ain't nothing but a number Bob Ruhland (left) and Ray Blum (right) happen to my husband. It gets him out of the house.' Blum: That was our wives, Bob. [laughs] The league is for players 55 and older. To keep it safe but still competitive, the rules have been modified, correct? Ruhland: Yeah, one of the rules is that you can run through second and third bases and not be put out. We also have a second plate with a scoring line at home so that there are no collisions. Blum: And no metal cleats, no sliding, and there's a special ball called a Clincher, which is a little softer than a regular softball and doesn't travel as far. We might move a little slower, but we know the fundamentals of the game and make the right plays. This May marks your third year. How are things looking for the season? Ruhland: We had a meeting this morning and it looks like we'll have 12 teams. May 9 is opening day at Goodman Park! On the league website, you have a quote: "We don't quit playing because we grow old; we grow old because we quit playing." Why is that your motto, of sorts? Blum: It means more to me than softball. I still bike, I still exercise, I'm active. I think a lot of people become old not because of their age but because of their lifestyle. Ruhland: This gives you a chance to not grow old, to play ball like you did when you were a little kid. That's how I feel out there. ••• Quick Questions with Blum and Ruhland Who is your favorite baseball player of all time? Ruhland: Eddie Matthews of the Braves. Blum: Brooks Robinson from the Baltimore Orioles. 28 BRAVA Magazine What is your best position? Ruhland: I pitch in our league, but growing up I played right field and first base. Blum: In a game last year, he threw 53 pitches and had 51 strikes. May 2012 Blum: For me it's always been third base. Ruhland: You can quote me, he's the best third baseman I've ever seen play softball. I mean it. Favorite in-game snack? Sunflower seeds? Gum? Ruhland: Gatorade. Blum: Gatorade. Best way to ease sore joints after a game? Ruhland: Rest. Blum: Stretch, before and after the game. Photo by Tyler Robbins

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