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Centre Sluggers Baseball League Gearing Up for Its 18th Season

by and on May 10, 2018 6:00 AM

It’s hard to find anything that can bring people together like a day at the ballpark. Baseball is America’s game after all, and the Centre Sluggers Baseball League has been giving players another chance to suit up and take the field for 18 years now. 

Centre Sluggers is an eight-team league made up of around 120 players, all at least 28 years old. Every game throughout the season is played on Sundays, with two games each at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. The season starts Sunday, May 20, and ends with playoffs starting after Labor Day.

Each team is guaranteed to play at least 15 games during the season, with 14 regular season games and at least one playoff appearance. If weather causes a game to be canceled it is scheduled for another week.

Most games during the season are played on the State College Teener League Fields. One of the coolest experiences players in the league have the opportunity to share are games at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, where the State College Spikes play.

Each team gets at least one opportunity to play at the stadium during “Medlar Weekend,” during which all eight teams gather to play. This season, Medlar Weekend is scheduled for Saturday, July 28, and Sunday, July 29. Two games are played each day so that each team gets an opportunity to use the field. 

“(At Medlar Field) is where I play my best ball,” said Jason Bickle, league president and player-manager. “Whenever I go to Medlar for the midseason games, I play awesome!”

Centre Sluggers’ championship game has also been held at Medlar Field each year since 2009 when Medlar Weekend started. The staff at Medlar has a production team work to make the experience just like a Spikes game, putting pictures of each player on the scoreboard and calling names over the public address system. 

“It’s a great partnership,” said Scott Walker, the general manager of the State College Spikes. “They have a bunch of great guys that play in the league and have a lot of fun and we’re happy to be a part.

“It’s a joy to see these guys still playing baseball. Some of these guys are in their 40s and 50s, still playing baseball, and you know they’re out there because they love the game,” he continued. “I’d say that’d be one of the things I enjoy most, being able to host them on a professional field under the lights sometimes, too. I think it’s cool to experience that with them.”

Centre Sluggers uses wooden bats and plays by mostly the same rules as major league teams. The league does use a few variations of the mercy rule and other safety rules. One interesting rule limits the length that pitchers between the ages of 28 and 35 can pitch to nine outs total.

“(The pitching rule) is trying to make (the league) more fair,” said Bickle. “Can you imagine a 28-year-old guy throwing a no-hitter for a whole game? That’s frustrating.”

The league continues to grow and improve as more players join. Centre Sluggers is accepting of players of all skill levels and anyone can join, as long as they are at least 28. Some players joined Centre Sluggers after playing in the Centre County Baseball League, while others joined after many years off the diamond.

“Before I joined Centre Sluggers League I hadn’t played baseball for definitely 15 years,” said Bickle. “Immediately, I was hooked.”

“Of course, playing baseball (is one of my favorite things in the league), though I think the neat thing is getting to know the players on the other teams,” said John Young, one of the league’s former presidents. “You get to know a lot of guys you’d probably never run into otherwise, you make a lot of friends that way.”

No matter who you talk to around the league one thing is clear: They play because they love the game. Every inning is competitive and strategic without being stressful. Everybody is there to have fun first and foremost.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Young. “It keeps me from having to go out and learn to play golf.”

The league is set to start the regular season in just a couple weeks, but players are being accepted all season long. Centre Sluggers also offers a 40-and-over league known as the Centre Hardballers. Some players end up playing in both.

Bickle and the rest of the Centre Sluggers suggest that anyone interested check out a game to see how the league runs. More information and how to join can be found at www.centresluggers.com or on the Centre Sluggers Facebook page.



This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.



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