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Best Place to Hear the Crack of the Bat (and of the Bones) Houston 2001 - Harris County Senior Softball League, Bayland Park

Beyond the well-manicured youth diamonds of Bayland is the always reliable Field of Dreams: the domain of the Harris County Senior Softball League. These participants, of course, also are kids, ranging from the tender age of 50 upward into the octogenarian ranks. They feature some athletes who could give Triple-A upstarts a real run for their money. And they also include players long past their prime, reduced to a trot or a lob toss from second to first. From the first pitch forward, there are feisty arguments, genuine rivalry, a few long-running feuds -- and the finest kind of gentlemanly sportsmanship seen anywhere in these parts. Pro ball may continue to evoke rich (even patriotic) passions by citizens searching for the nostalgic security of the way the game used to be, before shopping-mall arenas and mega-salary standoffs. The gang at Bayland believes there's more to be had than a $6 beer and passive spectator's seat for overpaid stars. The finest tribute still is feeling the rough texture of a sandy infield, and a smile after a sharply struck single. When it comes to a love of the game, the Harris County seniors are in a league of their own.

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