Wood bats even the score in league

Come spring, baseball on Saturdays is a way of life in these parts.

From first thing in the morning until the lights come on at daylight's end, families work ball games into their weekend schedules around yard work, errands and household chores.

But at one ball field, the picture is a little different. Instead of baseball moms watching the kids play and the dads coach, mom is playing while her daughter cheers, or father and son play together, maybe even with grandpa.

This time the game is at Friendship United Methodist Church, where the Friendship Wooden Bat Softball League welcomes all kinds of players.

Friendship church is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Reminiscing about the past, church members fondly recalled softball games and tournaments on the church field. They decided they wanted to make some new memories on that field.

Greg Furr grew up at Friendship and is responsible for the new softball league.

The softball leagues of the past not only provided a place for players to play, he said, but they also made the community grow closer. Folks who played softball more than 20 years ago run into each other and find that those old games are still a great topic of conversation.

Furr and others at the church were determined to see whether they could bring back that sense of community.

So they sent out letters to other churches, inviting them to be a part of the Wooden Bat Softball League. They heard from about 20 churches, some from as far away from Shelby and Gastonia.

They began the league this month with six teams: Cold Springs United Methodist, Miami Baptist, Central United Methodist, Locust Presbyterian, St. Paul's and Center Grove United Methodist combined and, of course, Friendship.

Friendship's pastor Dale Bost said the whole point of the league is for families to have fun. He said the great range in ages of the players on the field - from teenagers to folks on the far side of 40. The fans in the bleachers cheer, groan and laugh while the players try hard and support one another.

Greg Furr explained that using a wooden bat really helps to equalize the players' abilities.

The league requires one female player on the field at all times, but most teams have as many as four women playing at any given time. Furr believes the women have a way of keeping the game "toned down," helping to ensure the friendly atmosphere of the league.

Players pray together before a game, shake hands after and provide umpires for the other games, all of which encourage good sportsmanship.

The Friendship Wooden Bat Softball League will have games every Saturday afternoon through July 2 at the church, on Mount Pleasant Road. Church teams interested in joining the league should contact the church.

The public is welcome to come and enjoy some free, all-American entertainment.