For grownups, the all-American sport of softball takes on many guises, apparent to anyone who’s spent time in a public park in the Hudson Valley in the summertime. It ranges from loose and fun to increasingly competitive, to the Men’s A Division in the City of Kingston’s Parks and Recreation Softball League.
“It’s the competition,” said John Lowe, Jr., captain and multi-positional player of Deuire’s Trophies. “That’s what it is.”
There are five different divisions in Kingston Rec softball, with 35 different teams. The A Division, the most competitive, has just five teams. As of Tuesday, Aug. 7, Hometown Discount Beverage is in first place with a 12-4 record, followed by G-Squad (11-6), Deuire’s Trophies (8-9), Paramount Pirates (8-9) and Aero Star Petroleum (3-14). As befitting a division built upon competitiveness, the only advantage of finishing atop the regular season heap beyond bragging rights is the chance to open the postseason against the winner of a single game played between the fourth- and fifth-place teams. The first round of the playoffs is set to begin on Thursday, August 16 at Kingston Point Field.
Steven McCardle is the captain of G-Squad, a team that has at worst locked up the A Division’s second-place slot.
“A Division is everything you would think it is,” said McCardle. “Great games, athletic plays, home runs, great defense. The competitiveness of each team to go out and fight to win is great to see and be around on softball nights.”
There are rivalries, McCardle said, and each opponent brings something unique to the diamond, with each team having its own collective personality.
“Hometown has the knowledge of the game down,” said McCardle. “They have a great mix of seasoned vets and youth to power the lineup. Their captain might have been on the first Kingston softball team ever. Paramount has some really good talent from baseball players that transferred perfectly into softball. Same with Deuire’s Trophies, the balance of young guns and athletic veterans, makes for a dangerous lineup. Aerostar has guys in their lineup that know the game and can really play. They go out and give 110 percent every night even though they aren’t at the top of the standings, and they still make games interesting. And then you have us: A group of young know-it-alls that are just trying to win games, talk smack and have some fun. Of course when you combine all this with the will and drive to win, you get some very good softball. And at the end of the night, we all sit back and laugh together like one big happy family.”
Lowe, a 2007 Kingston High graduate who played college ball and coached at the University of Brockport, also mentioned family — Family Matters is the name of the co-ed team he’s played with in an annual tournament in Lake George — but there’s also an internal drive he sees in A Division players.
“Coming from a high level of ball that I played, being around a lot of great players coming up, it really defined me as a ballplayer,” he said. “I’m almost 30. Giving up baseball was a big thing for me. Coming out of high school every kid’s dream was to become a professional baseball player. And now I get to play against guys that played Division I ball, Division II and III ball. As we get older we play in A divisions, and it brings a lot of that back.”
McCardle, also a KHS alum, has followed a different trajectory with G-Squad, climbing through the ranks as the team has improved.
“Technically this is our second year in A Division,” he said. “Three years ago when A and B were combined, we were technically in B. Even though we pulled off wins against a couple of A teams, we still opted for B Division. As a team we said we wanted to win every letter division. We did it all the way up to B, and by staying in B, we got that title. Now the only one we’re still chasing is that A crown. Even though the other four championships are only ‘JV’ titles, we still fought for them. But we’re not done.”
All five men’s divisions in Kingston Rec softball have playoffs, though it’s perhaps befitting of the whirling intensity around A Division that theirs is the only postseason that doesn’t extend into the first week of September. Their championship, as with most rounds in the playoffs, is settled in a three-game series, scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 30 at Kingston Point.
Though he acknowledges his team’s drive to win, McCardle said even in the A Division it’s most important to enjoy the game.
“For me, the best part about softball is the joy that comes of it,” he said.“The smiles and laughs seen and heard around the field is great. Between players, officials and people hanging out at the field, it usually makes for a good night. I’m convinced that ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ is all about good ol’ Block Park.”