WEST ALLIS, Wis. (CBS 58) — They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Don’t tell that to the players of The Greater Milwaukee 65+ Softball League.
Every summer, the league uses a slightly adapted version of softball to get men 65 and older off the couch and on the ball field for fun, competitive games at McCarty Park.
“Keeping people active and having fun and making new friends,” explained Greg Baker, a player, manager and league president. “The plays that some of these guys can still make and the athletic ability that they have; it’s unbelievable when you’re watching these guys.”
The league has roughly 180 players making up 12 teams. The average age of a player is 76.
“We have 30 players that are 80 or older,” Baker said. “Our oldest player in the league is 90; Al Behling.”
Al Behling walks up to the field with a sense of swagger and pride that only someone with 83 years of baseball/softball experience could muster. With a smile on his face, he laces up his cleats and prepares his glove for the action. He’s the catcher, after all. An integral part of a ball club.
“For 70 years I’ve been hoping to get this job,” Behling said, talking about the catcher position. “Now, I got it.”
Behind the plate, the 90-year-old Behling is a leader, barking out orders and making sure his infield is aware of the scenario in which the team finds itself. When he steps up to the plate, the right-handed hitter can still pack a punch.
“I don’t have the skills I had before,” Behling admitted. “I recognize that. I’m not a true asset anymore, I’m more of a liability,” he laughed.
Taking those realizations into account, the 90-year-old slugger has decided Summer 2022 will be his last on the ball field.
“It’s hard to walk away, but I’m going to walk away this coming year,” Behling said. “83 years, it’s been my life. Me and my wife, we’re baseball all the way.”
While Al might miss the game, it’s his teammates who are really going to feel his absence at the ball park.
“To have a 90-year-old out here like Al Behling, it just inspires everybody,” Tim Whiting said. “He’s an inspiration for all of us. We’ll miss him.”
“He’s my idol,” Baker added. “I want to be like Al. I want to be able to play like Al at 90, when I finally grow up.”
As for Behling himself, he’s ready to trade in the glove for a fishing pole, his bat for golf clubs.
“I don’t want to just sit down,” Behling said. “I don’t have a garden in the backyard. I want to do things.”
Still, he’s grateful for the time spent on the ball field, all 83 years, and hopeful he may just inspire others to carry on the game he loves so dearly.
“Enjoy the game. Don’t walk away,” Al said. “Too many guys walk away.”
Walking away, something the league hopes to continue to prevent for years to come.
“We don’t care where you want to come from as long as you’re willing to make the drive to play every Thursday,” Baker said, encouraging players to contact him to sign up for next season. “We’d love to have more men join our league. We’d love to get more men out to participate and stay active.”
Anyone interested in playing is asked to contact Greg Baker at 414-771-9532.