SILVER LEAGUE IS A HOME RUN
BLAST STARTS LEAGUE
It is funny how one seemingly insignificant incident can eventually blossom into something of major importance, which would affect thousands of people. Such was the case of the Akron Silver League who’s beginning came about because of a home run.
“I was playing in a celebrity softball game at Firestone Stadium in the fall of 1986,” said Silver League founder Mike Staschak, who was 62 years old at the time. “My team was playing a group of 70-year olds from Stow at Firestone Stadium and we had a nice crowd on hand.”
“Late in the game I came up to bat and had one-of-those once in a lifetime hits, a homerun way over the leftfielder’s head and to the wall,” remembered the Chapel Hill Mall manager. “It was great at the time but I didn’t think much more about it.”
Until the next day, that is. Staschak began receiving telephone calls in the morning and they continued throughout the day from friends and acquaintances that either saw the hit or heard about it.
“I can’t remember receiving that many calls on anything else I had ever done, “ Staschak said, “ and a lot of the callers were saying they wished their was some sort of softball activity for other guy’s in their 60’s.”
After some preliminary conversation with his friend Don Krizo, Staschak decided to have a meeting and find out many 60-year olds actually wanted to play softball. The first meeting drew 15-to-20 men and one woman.
“I thought she was there to be a cheerleader or something,” Staschak explained about the female attendee. “After I talked to her and found out she wanted to play softball, I explained I wasn’t prejudice against woman playing but I wasn’t ready to appear in divorce court because I was playing softball with women. I didn’t think my wife would be happy”.
So now you know why the Silver League is a men only organization.
After the first organization meeting, Staschak and Krizo came up with two League sponsors (Chapel Hill and Lakemore Malls) who contributed a $1,000 each. The money covered the cost of equipment, hats and jerseys. Players later chipped in money to pay for the umpires
In 2008 the number of sponsors has grown to 35, who contribute over $14,000 to the Silver League. Without their backing the Silver League would be unable to exist.
In the spring of 1987 the League kicked off its initial season with 48 players divided among four teams. The players were distributed in the same manner we still do today…with a draft.
“The draft is one the main reasons the league has been so successful for all these years,” Staschak said, “ It keeps the team balanced and players are never stuck on a bad team year-after-year while others keep playing on a championship team. You also form new friendships each year and that is what the foundation of the Silver League is…friendship.”
Another item the League initiated from the start was that everybody at the game plays the field and bats. The emphasis was on participation, fun and friendship. Outlined in the “Purpose of the Silver League” are the statements “afford all members an opportunity to play regardless of age or athletic ability” and “to promote an activity the whole family can enjoy”.
Apparently the founders had the right formula for success because the League expanded to six the teams the following year, twelve the next year and kept increasing each year to its current level of 450 players and 32 teams.
Word of mouth seemed to be the best method of advertising as church league players, former industrial league players and city rec players heard about the League and kept calling Staschak for information on getting on a team.
“We started with a 60 year old age limit but so many people kept calling and asking to play, we kept dropping the age. first to 55 and then 52 and 50 and now 45.,” Staschak explained, “We also got a big promotional boost when the Akron Beacon Journal did a big article on the League. That really opened the flood gates.”
The popularity has continued to increase outside of Akron. Last year there were players from fifty-seven cities and seven counties.
In addition to the “draft” another thing, which has not changed in the Silver League, is the strict uniform rule of sponsor jerseys, league hats, white socks and gray pants. The theory, which has stood the test of time, is “If you look professional, you will carry yourself in a professional manner.”
“We tried to instill a sense of pride of being in the Silver League with the uniform code,” Staschak explained. “How you look carries over to how you act both on and off the field. Personally, I am very happy with the results the uniform code has achieved.”
Another thing which hasn’t changed is the caliber of play. Anyone who has ever thought senior softball is a family picnic type game is in for a rude awakening the moment he attends his first practice.
“The talent has been exceptional right from our first year,” Staschak said, “Just look at all the state and national tournaments and awards travel teams from the Silver League have won. That has also helped promote the League and kept it growing.”
The final piece of the puzzle, which has made the Silver League such an outstanding organization, has been the high quality of leadership both at the Presidential and Board level.
“That has been a very important part of our success,” Statschak explained. “ We have had exceptional leaders every year and each president has added some new contribution to the improvement of the League.”
“The people who have served on the Board have taken their responsibilities serious,” said Staschak, who served as the League’s first President from 1987 thru 1990 and holds the title of President Emeritus. “When you have dedicated people running the organization you know it will continue to grow and prosper.”
That it will and all it took was a “Celebrity Game” home run to get it started and turn it into the outstanding organization we have today
The Purpose of The Silver League shall be:
A.) To give mature persons who have attained at least their 45th birthday of that calendar year an opportunity to participate in the great game of softball.
B.) To focus on good sportsmanship - a prerequisite for all who choose to participate.
C.) Afford all members an opportunity to play regardless of age or athletic ability.
D.) To promote an activity that the whole family can enjoy
The Silver League is a Men's 45 plus softball league in Akron, Ohio