(Above: Danny Summers pitching for the Cardinals in the Southern Colorado Men’s Senior Baseball League. Photos Courtesy of Garrison Summers)

By Danny Summers, Sports Reporter, Pikes Peak Newspapers, Colorado Springs, Colorado

A couple of Sundays ago I made my return to the diamond as a member of the Hitmen in the Southern Colorado Men’s Senior Baseball League. It was a blast playing with a whole new group of guys from throughout the Pikes Peak region.

We lost to the Zephyrs — by a lot — but there were no sad faces in our dugout as we exited El Pomar Field No. 4 at about 6 p.m. Each player on our team gave 100% for the three hours we were enjoying the summer game in the hot sun.

I have played in the MABL/MSBL on and off since 2002. Among the teams I’ve played for include the Braves Indians, Dodgers, Pirates, Colt 45s and Cardinals. It’s been an honor cultivating relationships with my teammates.

In 2017, I joined the Cardinals in the 50-and-over league, although you can be as “young” as 45 to play ball. That year’s Cardinals’ team included former Air Academy track and cross-country coach Steve Rischling (he was our manager) and former Air Academy and Liberty basketball coach Ivan Chambers. Great teammates and great guys.

The MSBL president is Bud Maison. I got to know Bud when we were Pirates teammates in 2007 and 2008. Retired from the army, Bud now is an army instructor at Fountain-Fort Carson High School.

Bud is passionate about the MSBL and is extremely supportive of each athlete. He has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of play while adding more teams.

The Hitmen are a ragtag group who come from a variety of backgrounds. Our manager and first baseman, Mike Sunich, is a licensed clinical psychologist by day. His kids play baseball for Cheyenne Mountain High School. Steve Rubin our centerfielder and Skyway resident, is the site Director at Colorado Academy of Veterinary Technology. His son also plays for Cheyenne Mountain.

Our catcher, Austin Byrd, a Broadmoor-area resident, has a diverse professional background that includes working as a compliance officer.

Kelly Austin, second baseman and outfielder, is a pilot (captain) with Southwest Airlines. John Boucahrd, our team’s third baseman, spent more than 30 years in the Navy and a dozen years as a police officer. He lives in the Gleneagle area these days and works mostly as a handyman.

Vaughn Eisler, our No. 2 hitter and utility player, is a development director with Equinix Corp.

You can tell the men who play in this league are successful off the field. For a few hours each week, they put their bodies on the line for some fun in the sun playing a game that most of us enjoyed as youths. Some of the guys in the league went decades between stepping in the batter’s box. Now that they have a little free time, they’ve become weekend warriors. Others, like me, have been playing in hardball leagues since our mid-20s.

I still have a passion and a love for the game. But my body constantly reminds me that I am not 18, 28, 38 or even 48 years old anymore. A hip replacement, knee replacement, double spinal fusion and a plate in my left wrist have me feeling more like a medical experiment than a ball player. But when I’m between the lines that passion for the grand old game comes back. I love the competition. Most of all I love having fun with my teammates.

If you are interested in playing in the MSBL or MABL, check out the website, pointstreaksites.com/view/msbl-soco.

I hope to see you around the ballpark.

Danny Summers has been covering sports at all levels in the Pikes Peak region since 2001. Send your story ideas and feedback to danny.summers@pikespeaknewspapers.com.