“There is nothing that should be taken seriously about softball … You should be out here drinking, having a beer, hanging out with your buddies. We do our best to make it as unserious as possible,” said Jess Horning of Liquid Blue Events, who has been playing softball in the area for about 18 years.
To keep that spirit of fun alive for even longer throughout the year, the City of Sparks, in cooperation with Red’s Golden Eagle Grill, will be adding the Fall Ball season to its adult softball program. This first fall season will run from Oct. 15 to Nov. 20.
Former general manager at Red’s Golden Eagle Grill, Brian Eggers originally came up with the idea to introduce a fall season to boost local participation in adult softball and increase revenue for the city and Red’s.
“I noticed that we had a lot of Indian Summers going on and there’s no reason not to keep the recreation going on … These fields are an absolute gem. They are a gift to the community,” Eggers said of the facility at Golden Eagle Regional Park.
While the new fall league will provide players a chance to play softball for an even longer period throughout the year, it remains uncertain whether new players will participate.
“We are hoping to find some new players that might have time available to play in the fall, but we expect the majority to be the die-hard players that want to continue to play,” said Sparks Recreation Supervisor and Nevada Amateur Softball Association Commissioner Tony Pehle.
Speculation runs high as to how successful the new fall season will be. Despite the uncertainty of new players joining in the fall season, many are optimistic.
“When you start anything, you don’t know until you try it … I think it’s going to be great for those people that want to play for three-fourths of the year,” said Jeremy Batrez, the new general manager at Red’s Golden Eagle Grill, who also plays in two league teams throughout the year.
Die-hards like Horning are also excited for the introduction of an even longer playing season.
“The longer they extend the season is always better, people want to play … Winter league has gotten just too cold, the fall league is a perfect addition,” Horning said.
According to Pehle, participation in adult league softball has been steadily decreasing at a rate of 10-15 percent annually for the last 15 years. Sparks was able to buck the national trend for nearly a decade, but participation has steadily dropped by about 10 percent for the last five years.
“We were able to fight that drop for 10 years, but it caught up with us when the economy got really bad,” Pehle said.
The saving grace for adult softball in the area has been having Golden Eagle Regional Park as a sports complex. With its six softball fields of artificial turf, Golden Eagle is perfect for nearly year round play.
“It’s one of the nicest complexes in the entire country, if not the entire world…and our locals get to play on it on a daily basis, in their own backyard,” Pehle said.
Beyond having a state-of-the-art sports complex in Golden Eagle, what really keeps adult softball alive in the area is the sport’s ability to bring people together.
“We’ve just had a great tradition … The residents of Sparks enjoy participating in outdoor activities … It’s an outlet for friends, family, and coworkers to blow off some steam, have a little fun, be athletic, and stay active. (It's) the camaraderie, to hang out with your buddies, play the game, and have a beer afterwards,” Pehle said.