by Martha Robinson
The Riderwood Softball Team practices twice a week for three months. That’s what it takes to be as good as possible at throwing, running, hitting, and catching. With a coach who has ball playing in his blood and a lifetime of sizing up players and team-building, Riderwood will be ready on June 7 to take the field against three other Erickson Living retirement communities—Charlestown, Oak Crest, and Greenspring.
The prize for Riderwood’s 70 and 80-year-olds is doing their best to win the championship of the annual Erickson tournament, dubbed a “Battle of the Beltways.” This year’s games will be at the Charlestown campus in Catonsville MD. As usual, the rules of the games are intended to accommodate safe senior play.
Charlie Hudson, the coach since about 2008, says the team is ready to play to win and have fun. The greatest influence in his life, he says, was his ball-playing father who taught him to catch at age 2. After his sandlot years and college, Charlie made a career of teaching, coaching, and umpiring athletics in Prince George’s County for youth and then seniors well after retiring from the High Point High School faculty.
Most of the guys taking the field this year grew up playing ball and are serious spectators. “I’ve played ball all my life,” says designated hitter David Friedman. From 1966 until 2015 and throughout his 36-year career as an IRS agent, he played on regular and senior teams in Bowie. Dave Ackerman played on his Capitol Hill office team, and Richard Bennof is a self-described supporter of all D.C. teams, especially the Nats, Redskins, and Caps. Preston James played pick-up ball around D.C. and had a career in the construction business before playing outfield in a senior league. He’s been catching for Riderwood for about five years.
Jack McMahon, a retired mechanical engineer who still runs weekend road races, plays outfield for Riderwood and runs the bases for hitters as needed. Jon McNeal, a chemist, got into the game watching his grandson play. For David Nation, a Little Leaguer from Hudson, Iowa, and a computer scientist/researcher, this is his second year. Bob Tiller, a former public policy advocate and the newest Riderwood resident on the team, says he’s played “almost every position” over time. Dick Kmetz, a 12-year veteran can’t remember when he didn’t play ball through college and in work and community leagues. Left-handed ex-Bladensburg High School pitcher Gordon Ward, a registered professional engineer, now commands the mound for Riderwood. He ran track and played soccer, but softball was always his hobby.
For the coach and players, Riderwood softball is all about appreciating each other’s abilities and efforts, improving skills, staying sharp, being competitive, and having a lot of fun.