Huddled into the Tuscany Falls ballroom off Clubhouse Drive, 15 managers sat and pondered their next moves.
With just over three weeks before the Pebble Creek Senior Softball Association commences its 25th season, the 15-team league held its annual player draft on Sept. 15. The 15 skippers meticulously crafted their 12-man rosters, a total of 180 players hearing their names called on draft day.
“It lasted about three hours,” league vice president Dawn Hangen said.
Pebble Creek’s oldest — its most experienced player, rather — is 89 years old, per Hangen. The youngest, a wide-eyed rookie around these parts, is 53.
Together, league forms an ultra-competitive 42-game season. Opening day is slated for Oct. 19, with two scheduled games per week until the season end in late March. They play seven-inning games.
The drafting process isn’t as elementary as it may seem. Thirteen of the 15 managers also play in the league. The first round allows for those 13 to essentially select themselves with their first-round picks. The two nonplaying skippers then select from the field of players to round out the first 15 picks.
Rounds two through 12 calls for intensive strategizing and creativity. Each player is rated on a scale from 10 to 30, Hangen said. Ratings are determined by the league’s evaluation committee, a board of people who grade a player for his/her ability to hit, field, throw and run.
The league holds several evaluation days before an upcoming season, sending league-wide announcements to every manager so they can attend and get a look at these draft prospects.
The order in which managers pick after round one depends on the rating of their previously selected player.
“After that, it goes to who has the lowest total,” said Hangen, one of four women playing in the league. “In the first round, the highest-rated manager was a 27 and the lowest-rated manager was a 16. In the second round, that manager rated 16 will select first. It then just goes from 16 up to 27.”
After their 12th-round selection, managers must be within three points of the established cap. For example, this year’s cap rounded out at 226, so managers had to draft 12 players whose point totals came plus-three or minus-three over the mark.
It’s here where managers begin to get crafty when building their team, as they must carefully budget the remaining cap space, per se, to ensure they stay within the bracket. Each round is heavily monitored by the league’s board members, as well as other managers, to ensure a manager stays within his limits upon selection.
As evidenced by this three-hour draft, Pebble Creek hosts no run-of-the-mill senior softball league. This is a wildly competitive platform for the community’s senior citizens to transport back to childhood, even just for seven innings.
“It’s absolutely cool,” Hangen said, on how the league enthralls all who are involved. “There’s a lot of people who move to Pebble Creek specifically for our softball league. It’s incredible.”