Thursday, December 1, 2022

Robson Ranch hits grand slam with softball league

Longtime Robson Ranch resident Clyde Ziegler enjoys the look on every new resident’s face when he and a few cronies ask if they want to play in the community’s softball league.

Admittedly, that’s typically not the first question someone in their 60s and 70s gets asked during small talk — and the bewildered responses are almost always the same.

“In 99.9% of cases, they say, ‘I haven’t played softball in 30, 40, or 50 years,’” Ziegler, 75, said with a laugh. “That’s the first thing we all said when we were first asked, but then you get out here and start to play catch, hit the ball, and get out on the field.

“Your mind starts to feel 30 years younger — even though your body isn’t. It’s an absolute thrill to play again.”

Robson Ranch is known for being a premier retirement community for active adults in North Texas, and they have a variety of lifestyle activities for residents to choose from. One of those activities is the increasingly popular Robson Ranch Softball Association, which has grown to include a co-ed league, seniors league, and two competitive travel teams — one for players 65 and up and the other for players 70 and up.

League games are going on practically every day of the week at their community stadium called the Field of Dreams. And in many instances, those residents who can’t get enough of the game end up playing double duty in both leagues.

“It’s an absolute thrill to play this game again,” Ziegler said. He and his wife, Sandi, recently celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary. They have two kids and four grandkids. “In the co-ed league, we always have an after-game meal and spend time meeting each other. It’s a great activity for us older people to stay active, physically and socially, and to feel younger.”

In the same breath, Ziegler doesn’t mince words when he says their will to win is alive and well. In 2016, the Association started a 65 and up traveling squad to compete in various tournaments throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. They were so successful against teams from other areas — many of which pull from a larger geographic area rather than a neighborhood — that they added a 70 and up team in 2021.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic and the occasional injury to key players have slowed them down from time to time, both teams have won major tournaments over the years and continue to maintain a busy schedule to this day.

In fact, the 70 and up team was recently named the 70 AA Division state champions after competing in the 2022 Texas State Championship in Grapevine. Ziegler, who plays third base, admitted that Robson was the only 70 AA team at the tournament, meaning they won by default. But that didn’t stop them from playing six games in two days against competition from higher divisions.

Robson eliminated three of the five 70 AAA teams they faced and beat the 65 AA Division champ in that tournament.

They also placed fourth at the Salute to Veterans tournament in College Station, a tournament they won a year earlier.

“We have several outstanding players, all of whom allow us to compete against the bigger teams,” Ziegler said.

He pointed to stars such as Johnny Blecher, who plays rover and hit a grand slam at the Grapevine tournament. Their top two pitchers are Carl Caruso and Mick Calverley, and perhaps their best asset is their speed in the outfield, courtesy of guys like Jimmy Reese and Ford Robertson. In the Texas State Championship, Blecher and Pat Powers hit over .700, and David McKie, Bob Laderach, Jerry Bennett, Ziegler, and Randy Brewer all hit over .600.

Their non-player manager is Gary Smith, who Ziegler called a tremendous asset to the squad.

“We have a great manager with experience and some really good players out there,” Ziegler said. “Our outfield really sets us apart because the other teams don’t have guys who can run to catch the ball in the outfield. It’s a lot of fun.”

As for the future, none of the softball teams at Robson are showing signs of slowing down, though Ziegler admits there may be more hot tubs, bourbon, and beer in their future as they rest up and prepare for the next big game.

“There’s something about the game and the camaraderie we have,” Ziegler said. “We feel young again.”

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