VANCOUVER — Some of them have new knees. Others have new hips.
And they all have a new field to call their own.
The Vancouver Metro Senior Softball Association (VMSSA) had a grand opening for their facility last month, celebrating a successful fundraising campaign to build a new field for the older crowd.
“We’re just a bunch of old guys having fun,” said Joe Raabe, a past president of the league.
“We just always had a dream of making our own field.”
In June, that dream became reality when Sunlight Supply Field, on the grounds of Pacific Community Park in east Vancouver, held its first games.
The league, in its 24th season, is for softball players 60 and older. The VMSSA played at Clark College for most of its run. A few years ago, the league had to move to another site. It was around that time league officials got serious about having a place to call their own.
They met with county officials, who gave them 10 possible sites. Pacific was the most desireable. Still, it would be up to the league to come up with the funds.
“They were skeptical of the project being completed,” said John Aarhus, the current president of the league.
He knew better, though. He knew about the people associated with the league and their passion for the sport.
“These senior ballplayers are pretty committed, dedicated,” Aarhus said. “They are a special group of guys. They just all grabbed on to the dream of it.”
The goal was to raise $275,000. Aarhus said the league has now raised close to $300,000.
Construction began in February of 2016 and was completed for the 2017 campaign.
Dave Keim, the league treasurer, said around 80 percent of the donations came from players and fans. The rest of the money came in the form of substantial donations from local companies and/or donations of equipment and materials.
Sunlight Supply has the naming rights for the field for five years. Riverview Community Bank has its name on the scoreboard. Miller Paint got involved. So did Parkrose Hardware and Rotschy Inc., among others.
Aarhus also got creative in his search for donations. He noticed a pile of dirt outside a local church and asked about the church’s plans. Turned out, the church was about to get rid of it. That’s how Holy Redeemer Catholic Church helped out, as more than 4,500 yards of soil ended up at Sunlight Supply Field.
The metal for the dugout roofs was extra material from another large project in the county.
The association paid to have 71 more parking spaces added to Pacific Community Park, which also is home to a popular off-leash dog park. The agreement with local government officials notes that the field can be rented by other groups, specifically youth baseball and softball games, when the VMSSA is not using it.
That means the field is available pretty much every weekend. The VMSSA league plays Monday through Thursday every week because several of its members compete on traveling senior teams on the weekends.
Aarhus said roughly 60 percent of the 132 members are from Clark County. Other senior softball players come from as far north as Longview and Kelso, and there are 40 members from Oregon.
The VMSSA has eight teams, and each team plays one doubleheader a week for 16 weeks, giving each team 32 games a season. Men and women can play, but the athletes must be 60 or older. Eight of the members are 80 or older. Each year, the teams are drafted by managers in an effort to spread around the talent, so that no one squad turns into a super team.
The league does not hold a playoff tournament at the end of the season. There are no MVP trophies awarded.
“The reward at the end of the season is still being able to walk off the field,” Keim said.
Dennis York joked that he hoped the media would not tell his doctor that he is out on the field. York had his right hip replaced last July. On Monday, he legged out a triple.
Yes, a triple. While many have lost a step, and their arm strength in throwing the ball has been sapped by age, their bats remain powerful.
One line shot on Monday screamed to the fence in center field 300 feet from home plate.
Of the two outfielders in the area, only one went after the ball, though. The other, Jim Aarhus, John’s brother, just stood and watched.
As he came into the dugout between innings, he pointed to two long scars.
“I’ve got two new knees,” Jim Aarhus said. “I don’t run for the ball every time.”
That does not mean the players are not competitive. Many show disgust with their own miscues, and others scream in frustration when the defense robs them of a base hit.
Just like any softball or baseball game.
At Sunlight Supply Field, though, these “old guys” don’t have to worry about competing with players half their age.
This is their field.
They earned it.