Sherry Jackson, Contributor for Robson Communities, Inc.
Living at a Robson Resort Community provides residents with countless activities, recreation, and social opportunities. Residents can join pickleball teams, play a round of golf or hit the tennis court. But one sport, not always associated with active adult living, is on the rise-softball.
“Softball at Robson Ranch Arizona, located in Eloy, started in 2008 with a list of residents interested in playing a game we all thought we left way behind,” says Paul Lewinski, who helped organize the RRAZ Softball Association. “The first team played in a wellness weekend at Robson Ranch that included most of the Robson Resort Communities. As our community grew, so did our number of players. League play began in 2009 when Palm Creek RV Park opened their Senior Softball League. Our first tournament team was a joint venture of players from Robson Ranch and Fiesta Grande RV Park. We grew from a one league team to two and now three, plus a tournament team which plays competitively in the Phoenix area. We play because we love the pop of the bat hitting leather, the crunch of dirt beneath our cleats, and the sound of friends and neighbors reliving the memories of our youth.
Robson Ranch softball players play league games twice a week and participate in four to six tournaments at “the Ranch” and other regional locations. “For those who don’t want to play leagues, we have community softball on Saturdays where anyone can participate,” says Keith Uhlenbrauk, past president of the Robson Ranch AZ Softball Association and current player. Players also have “fun games” periodically with restaurant staff and between neighborhoods within the community, he added.
“With the gaining popularity in the softball program at Robson Ranch, the teams have been able to enhance the field with a modern scoreboard, banners in the outfield fence, and expand the quality of our playing surface,” said Uhlenbrauk.
At PebbleCreek, a Robson Resort Community located in Goodyear, softball has also grown in the past several years. They now have fourteen teams. These players are dedicated too, practicing three to six days a week with a season that runs each year from the end of October until the beginning of April with 38 games, says Manuel “Manny” Maciel, President of the PebbleCreek Senior Softball Association. “The league has grown and, as our community grows, we see the number of registered players increase each year. It also seems like the players are getting younger or maybe some of us are just getting older.”
It is not just the Robson Resort Communities in Arizona that are seeing the renewed interest in the sport. Robson Ranch in Texas also has its own softball association (RRSA) with a spring season (April and May) and a fall season (September and October). Seven co-ed teams play each week and are supported by volunteers including umpires, an announcer, scorekeepers and scoreboard operators.
“Robson Ranch Softball Association has struck up a relationship with the University of North Texas (UNT) football team to play a softball game once a year,” says Mike Conley, past President of RRSA. Conley currently leads the umpire training and assignments. He is also an assistant coach for one of the teams. “This is a big event that includes food, singing of the national anthem by the UNT music department, UNT announcers and even a flyover by Robson Ranch residents with their aircraft. The first year the Robson Ranch team won the game, the next year UNT won, and last year Robson Ranch reclaimed the title. I am sure this year’s event will have the UNT athletes motivated to not be bested by folks that are their grandparent’s age.”
Maciel attributes the popularity in softball as “reminiscent” of a time spent as a kid playing Little League or high school sports. The softball leagues provide an opportunity to meet new friends and create relationships, he says. “We try our best to keep our competitive spirit under control and remember what brings us together – having fun and still being able to play the game we all enjoy.”
“The real reason behind the popularity is because it allows us to act like kids again,” says Conley. “We get to play softball where we make that miraculous catch or hit as we did as kids. The social environment after each game allows us to develop great friendships. This really is a fun league that allows competition to drive us.”
“There is a big difference with playing competitive Robson softball- win or lose, you have the fun factor,” says Uhlenbrauk. “You are able to kid and joke with other teams and meet great people. At the end of the day, all walk away having a great time.”