CHARLOTTE – Gerry Gallup said Thursdays have been his favorite day of the week ever since he became a player in the BOOM softball league.
The BOOM (Bunch Of Old Men) softball league is entering its 11th season, and it’s a league unlike any other in the Charlotte area.
And, best of all, they’re looking for new players this spring.
To qualify, players must be at least 60 years old, have a general understanding of the game and be available for the Thursday double-headers that begin at Park Road Park at 10 a.m. sharp.
But that’s not all, according to David Jarrett, the man in charge of the league that really appears almost as much a cover for having a good time as it does a softball league.
“It’s all about having fun,” he said. “It’s not as competitive as the other two leagues in Carolina Senior Sports. This is laid back, it’s during the day, so you have to be retired to even play it.
“We got guys who can barely get to first base. When they get on, we’ll have runners for them – if we have anyone who has enough energy to run again. There’s got to be a lot of guys sitting at home saying, ‘Gosh, this looks like fun. I want to give this a try.’”
Gallup said he’d never hit a home run until last season. When he hit it out, his teammates remind him to this day, he was so excited he may have missed a base, but the BOOM league doesn’t take themselves seriously, so maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. There are never any umpires at their games, so it will go down in BOOM folklore forever.
When he got back to the dugout, though, that’s when the real fun began.
“If you do well, guys are going to pat you on the back and tell you did well,” Gallup said. “If you screw up or if you do too well, as you can see, they’re going to ride you. That’s what I love. It’s all about the camaraderie and the fun.”
Some of the BOOM players, including Keith Ratliff and Grier Stanford, play in much more competitive travel teams.
The Charlotte Senior Sports League, of which BOOM has formed under, has two other leagues including travel teams and a Tuesday night league that is competitive and features 20 teams with 260 players.
“In the other two leagues, it’s serious,” Jarrett said. “If you have an error or you screw up bad, guys are going to get a little bit peeved about it. Not in BOOM.”
Jarrett said he keeps the rosters at around 16 players, so he hopes 13 will show. Eleven players are needed to play due to an extra infielder/outfielder of the team’s choice, but they usually work out the details on the fly.
After their games, which run March through November and are divided into two seasons, the guys will meet for lunch at BV Pub and Pizzeria, where they have carved out a deal for a free beer from owner Haile Placek.
“That’s what I love about it so much,” Gallup said. “We get together and play, then we all go and have lunch and have a good time. Some guys will even go play golf after that sometimes. It’s just so much fun.”
Richard Storm lives outside Fort Mill and sometimes takes a 40-minute drive to the field.
“I started last year and they made me feel welcome right away,” he said. “I live a little bit far away, but I couldn’t imagine giving this up … The first day sitting in the dugout and hearing all of the laughing, joking and busting up, I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to like this. I’ve loved it ever since.”
Ratliff said sometimes it’s hard as a senior to meet new people, but the BOOM league has served him well in that regard.
“This is for the guy who’s looking for something fun to do where you can build friendships and have relationships,” he said. “That’s really at the heart of what we do.”
Jarrett just had surgery for esophageal cancer. He hasn’t swung a bat in months and says he’s itching for March to come. Stanford is receiving treatments for his cancer, but neither slowed down in the BOOM league.
And everyone gets why.
“We just have so much fun,” Storm said. “Nobody takes it or themselves seriously. I hadn’t played ball in 40-plus years, and it took me about a year to get into good playing shape. I’m still improving, but it was worth all of the pulled muscles. Right now, I’m having the time of my life and I couldn’t imagine not having this.”
Want to join BOOM?
About 75 people play in the league, but they’d like to grow it to around 100 and expand from four to six teams. The season costs $30 with an annual $20 membership. Registration is available at https://caroli nasrsports.com/ or by contacting BOOM President David Jarrett at 704-577-4521 or firstname.lastname@example.org.