Community tradition connected by America’s pastime
If you see the lights on at the Honor ball fields, pull in, park, turn off your lights, and head over to the bleachers. I promise, you’re bound to catch an entertaining night of softball.
An age span of 45 years ranges on the field on any given night, and the common theme is, “We’re here to have a good time.” But make no mistake, there are some seriously talented players out there, some who play on multiple nights and put the time in, who make incredible plays and get on base with a hit nearly every time they go to bat.
The world of softball in Benzie County is more than a night of slow pitch, running bases, and hot dogs. It’s a culture, a family, a network, and—most importantly—a tradition that has reigned strong for more than four decades.
Some folks may incorrectly call them beer leagues. Which, don’t get me wrong, there are some young-guns who haven’t yet learned their limits and some veterans who have one night a week to let loose and choose to do so after a game. (Not to mention that a strikeout means you bring beer for your entire team the following week.) But a win is a win, and a loss is a loss, and there are still the teams to beat who continue to win their given leagues season after season—Lake Ann Grocery, those Casino gals, and Geno’s, to name a couple.
I’m lucky enough to have witnessed a few different eras of softball in the area. My family has always played ball—Ma has played since before I was born; Pops has played and coached for quite some time; my three older brothers and I all watched them when we were too little to hold a bat, then we played throughout our childhood, and now we’re continuing on into our adulthood, too.
These days, Ma and Pops come to watch our game nights, and we’re lucky enough to compete with a couple players who are still out there from their playing days.
Above all of the entertainment that comes from watching endless innings, however, nothing compares to the joy of the kids—and the adults—themselves who are out there playing: pitching to each other, running bases, and chasing home-run balls that have been hit over the fence.
Our community is fortunate to have dedicated folks that keep all of the leagues—from T-ball to Over-40—rolling with ease. It is a volunteered commitment to manage every aspect of organizing the teams, umpiring the games, and manicuring the fields so that more than 100 players can show up each night, with friends and family in tow, to have a good time and play ball.
Frank Walterhouse, a retired Homestead Township commissioner who is over 70, is a softball staple who still to this day runs the field and keeps score, sounding the horn for every home run in Honor. He and so many others speak to the heritage that comes with Honor ball.
What remains the same, season after season? The tradition of playing ball.
Find the Over-40 League on Mondays at Memorial Park behind Watson Benzie car dealership in Benzonia. The Men’s League is in Honor on the hill behind Platte River Elementary on Tuesdays, and the Women’s League is there on Thursdays. On Fridays, the Co-Ed League is in Thompsonville. There are also those who play in nearby Traverse City or Cedar Tuesday through Friday, and on the weekends you can always find a tournament—usually Co-Ed—within an hour of home and always benefiting a great cause. (And don’t let the season fool you, since there are the infamous February Snowball Tournaments where you can find us playing with a ‘big’ ball in one to three feet of snow!)