Local baseball made its return on Sunday as the Eastern Baltimore County Over-40 Baseball League began its much-delayed season with three games.
The Rays rallied from a 6-0 deficit to beat the Dodgers 7-6 at Patapsco High; the Royals defeated the Diamondbacks 12-5 at the American Legion Post 38 field; and the Astros beat the Cardinals 9-4 at St. Helena Park.
Like all sports, the Over-40 season had been on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league usually begins its season on the last Sunday n March/first Sunday in April.
There was never a thought of just giving up on the season, league members said.
“When presented with an opportunity to get back out on the field to play,” I just couldn’t pass it up,” said Scott Rudolph, who plays for the Cardinals. He played for the defending league champion Cubs last season, but joined the Cardinals when the Cubs opted to sit out the season.
“Sports have been a huge part of my life,” said Rudolph, who played sports in high school and college and is a coach at Patapsco High. “A shortened season is better than no season. We couldn’t play an entire season because it would run into the fall. I’m excited for the next five games.”
The pandemic isn’t a big concern, Rudolph said, because “baseball is a sport that allows for people to keep distance from each other.”
Brian Weir, one of the original founders of the Over-40 League in 2010, said people just wanted to get back a sense of normalcy.
“Most people worked through the pandemic every day, but to have a few hours with your friends and break the monotony of all the bad surrounding us,” Weir said. “You realize how precious our time is here, and don’t want to let it pass you by.”
When the state declared it was now in Phase 2 of the recovery plan, it opened the door for sports to begin.
Over-40 League Commissioner Eugene Beres and League Coordinator Frank Roberts got to work hammering out a schedule, getting the paperwork finished and arranging field permits.
The League will play a seven-week schedule ending on August 9, with each team playing six games. The postseason will begin the following week.
With seven teams, each team will play one game against every other team in the league.
The game between the Rays and the Dodgers was well-played, considering the long layoff and lack of practice.
Trailing 6-0 in the top of the fifth, the Rays scored three runs with two outs to halve their deficit.
Sonny Weaver started the rally with a one-out double. Two walks and a fielder’s choice loaded the bases, and another walk forced in a run.
A bloop single to shallow center by Corey Goodwin drove in two more runs.
In the top of the sixth the Rays loaded the bases with no outs on a walk, throwing error and hit batter.
The Dodgers pulled off a 6-4-3 double play, with one run scoring. A single up the middle made it a one-run game.
The Rays took a 7-6 lead in the top of the seventh. With two outs and a runner on first, Weaver tripled to deep right field and scored the game-winning run on a soft line single over shortstop.
The Dodgers were shut out over the last five innings, with just two hits. The Rays didn’t get their first hit until the fourth inning.
That one Dodgers had an opportunity in the seventh inning, when Tony Ranocchia tripled to right field with one out.
A strikeout and a groundout ended the inning.
In the eighth, John Frank led off with a double and the Dodgers had first and third with one out after a Rays error.
Lance Mauck smacked a liner down the first base line. It was snagged by first baseman Goodwin, who doubled the runner off the base.
The Dodgers had taken a 2-0 lead in the third inning as Ranocchia led off with a single and Josh Maerten walked.
A groundout advanced the runners, and a two-out single by Frank drove in both runs.
The Dodgers extended their lead to 6-0 in the fourth inning on an EBI single by Rob Levine, a two-run double by Ranocchia and a sacrifice fly by Scott Simmons.
“When you’re as old as we are, you look forward to playing ball,” said Ranocchia, 58. “I thought there was no way we’d play this season, but we’re lucky to get a half-season in.
“It always feels good to wake up on a Sunday morning and head to the ball field.”