Things may be just warming up in the "bigs," but competition in Sun City Hilton Head's Softball Club is just about to reach its peak.
The 12 men's league teams and the six mixed teams are heading into championship games scheduled for May 2 at the community's softball field, which has seen a lot of use this year.
The spring season started March 5. The men's teams play Tuesdays and Thursdays, the instructional league plays Wednesdays year-round and the mixed league plays Saturdays. In between regular games, the four men's and women's travel teams practice for competition against regional and national leagues.
Club President Art Smallwood said the weather has been very cooperative this season. Rain postponed the men's games only once, and that was a Thursday, which made Tuesday fans happy.
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Tuesday is the traditional hot dog day where big, meaty dogs are available $1.50 each. Teams take turns cooking and dishing out good-natured ribbing as well as tasty hot dogs with mustard, ketchup, chopped onions, relish and sauerkraut set up on a table near the grill. Sodas and bottled water are available for an extra charge.
As friends and family find places under the canopied bleachers on both sides of the backstop or bring their own chairs to catch some sun, teams warm up.
There's as much socializing at the new picnic tables by the hot dog grill as there is softball being played on the field. The picnic area is often awash with color as uniformed players mingle before, during and after their games.
Unlike the big leagues, however, there isn't a lot of bench emptying going on here.
"We just enjoy ourselves. We're re-creating in retirement," Smallwood said. "The games are competitive and this club is a well-oiled machine."
The competition comes from players like Fitz Harding on the Door2Door team.
"I love it. It's a great thing to do," he said. "I played baseball for 20 years around Annapolis (Md.) before moving here a year and a half ago. I wanted to keep it up so I play softball."
Bob Montgomery said he has been playing softball on and off since 1941. He plays on the Mark F. Winn team.
"There were a few hiatuses," Montgomery said. "I keep playing because I don't want to stop. I'm 80 years old. If I were to stop playing I'd have to say I'm not playing any more."
As of April 12, the two teams leading in the men's standings were Elite Therapy with an 8-4 record in the American League and Weichert Realtors with an 8-3 record in the National League.
Weichert player Ed Winsininski indicated the standings were very fluid.
"This season is very competitive. On any given day anybody could beat anybody," he said. "Everybody seems to be having fun. We have a great team and a good bunch of guys that get along and support each other. That's the key to winning."
There is another key to winning and Winsininski pointed it out.
"I'd give an attaboy to the grounds crew, especially with all the rain we've had," he said. "They've been keeping the field in tiptop shape."