ELLERBE — “You play ball like a girl,” is a phrase the Hot Mamas Softball League’s players take as a compliment.
Gay Garris Rhyne, assistant commissioner, said the league started in spring 2012 through an innocent Facebook post. Ryhne thought it would be a way for women to get exercise while having fun playing softball. The league, which started with three teams in its first season, will start its third season on Saturday with 12 teams participating.
“My personal regret was not playing softball when I was younger,” said Rhyne. “A bunch of ladies replied to the Facebook post, we called a meeting and ended up with a room full of ladies that wanted to play softball.”
The league is technically for women ages 35 and up, but anyone over 21 is allowed to play. The basic rule is a team can have up to 18 players, but half of the roster should be over 35, said Rhyne. There are 10 positions on the field, and at all times, five of those players have to be over 35 as well, she added.
“Of the 191 signed up for this year, about half of those are over 35,” Rhyne said. “But you need some younger blood in there. We’ve had a blast and made new friends, but we try to stay noncompetitive. We keep score, but that’s not the focus. It’s about fellowship and having fun and getting some exercise.”
The league’s season will last six weeks with the last regular-season games ending on July 7. At the end of the season, said Rhyne, there will be a single-elimination tournament July 23-24 to determine a league champion.
Rhyne said the reason the league starts late is because Parsons Field is occupied with Little League baseball until mid June and with moms being busy with graduations, ball games and other activities, the league has to wait till schools are out.
“That’s their priority first,” said Rhyne.
The games, which are played at Parsons Field in Ellerbe, generally last five or six innings, but there is usually a one-hour time limit. Every member on a team has to play at least two innings, and with the lineup being the roster, everybody on the team also bats.
Max Gardner has been commissioner of the Hot Mamas Softball League since its inception in 2012 and is also a coach of one of the teams, Chix With Stix. His responsibilities include chairing the organizational meetings, setting the rules, finding a place to play, coordinating the schedule and getting the town of Ellerbe and its parks and recreation department on board.
“Last year, the league played there free of charge, but each team was responsible for doing community service at the ballfields. This year the entry fee is $375 per team which is payable to Ellerbe,” said Gardner. “Umpires and balls were paid out of pocket last year. This year, with that entry fee, the town will supply balls and umpires. We want to thank the town of Ellerbe for helping us with this.”
Rhyne, who plays for Chix With Stix, thinks it’s a great outlet for fellowship with other women.
“We want it to provide an outlet for women, only if you fail or get out at first, it’s OK as long as your having fun,” Rhyne said.
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-997-3111, ext. 18.