Throughout the country, and the world, youngsters dream of playing professional baseball, then life happens. For the past four years, the Ty Cobb Senior Baseball League has allowed men over 40 to relive their dreams and recapture their love of the game.
“It was taken away from me at a young age,” said league president Rich Swift, who hurt his elbow when he was 19 years old. His dream was to play pro ball in the United States or elsewhere.
Shown are the Lollygaggers, last year’s Ty Cobb Senior Baseball League champions. Submitted photo
Original founder Randy Goertzen contacted Rich in 2018 about playing in the league and it has been his passion ever since.
Swift said a lot of the players in his 40 plus wooden bat league got back into baseball because their kids were playing travel ball, something the older generation didn’t experience.
“We have nothing against softball but our love was baseball. We wanted to create a place for adults to play baseball, just for the love of the game,” Swift said.
There are no scholarships or professional contracts at stake during the Ty Cobb Senior Baseball games, which are played at the Henry Parker and Pony League fields in Salisbury. “We’re doing it strictly because we love it,” added Swift, a die hard baseball fan who named his son Brett after Hall of Famer George Brett.
The league has players with a mix of backgrounds. Some played in high school, college, or even at the Minor League level while others stopped playing in Little League or junior high (middle school). “As an adult they developed a love for the game and they wanted to go out and play,” Swift said. “We have a full range of players.”
For many, their first time playing in the league was their first time playing baseball and facing live pitching in 20 years. Using a wooden bat, instead of aluminum, is also an adjustment for some.
The league started in 2018 with a group of guys looking to play baseball again. In the first season there were four teams playing an eight game season with teams from Salisbury, Delmar, Berlin, and Pocomoke. Now there are 11 teams with around 200 players and teams from as far away as the eastern shore of Virginia and Milford.
There are now teams from: Seaford/Laurel, Salisbury/Hebron, Berlin-Ocean City, Pocomoke/Snow Hill, Sharptown/Mardela, Eastern Shore Virginia, West Salisbury, Delmar, Milford/Harrington, Millsboro, and Fruitland. There are 15-20 players per team with players paying around $120 to play each season.
Games are played on fields with professional dimensions. Most of the games are played on the Henry Parker baseball fields with some games (and the home run derby) played on the Pony League fields. Games are seven innings with teams playing one game a week. Each team is allowed to have two 35-39 year-olds but they are not allowed to pitch.
Stolen bases (except pinch runners) and pickoffs are allowed, but batters may not be thrown out from the outfield. All other traditional baseball rules apply.
Games take place from the first week of August until late October, usually on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Admission is free.
“We encourage anybody to come out and watch, especially kids,” Swift said.
Community outreach is also a big part of the league. Last year the Ty Cobb League partnered with Relay For Life and the Trey Mancini Foundation to raise over $2,000 for cancer support locally. The money helped families on Delmarva who are struggling with cancer. The cause strikes home with Swift, whose father died from pancreatic cancer in 2015. He hopes to hold the event again this year.
The league does not have an MVP or Cy Young Award, but it does present the Seth Abbey Heart and Hustle Award. The award is named after 18-year old Seth Abbey, a baseball player who died in a stabbing in Salisbury in 2019.
Swift said he’d also like to do something to honor Dylan Rodriguez, a Delmar baseball player who died recently in a car accident.
Swift said his goal for the league is to have teams with players from the towns they represent, like the Eastern Shore Baseball League’s old town ball system. The only difference is the Ty Cobb League is not a professional baseball league. He’d also like to be able to play games in the league’s other towns.
There are also plans for an over 50 league, which he would support. He is also considering an open age league, which would allow fathers and sons to play together. The Eastern Shore League, which is for players playing in college or at a high level, had an event that allowed Swift to play with his son.
“My goal is create as much opportunity for people who want to play baseball to get out and play baseball,” he said.
For more information on the league, visit the Ty Cobb Senior Baseball League Facebook page or email TCSBL40@gmail.com.