In more than four decades of softball, Dave Briones of Tracy hasn’t missed a season, but it wasn’t until he started closing in on the age of 50 that he really started to excel in his sport.
Now, after 15 years playing in the Northern California Senior Softball Association, the 64-year-old is joining other elite players as an inductee into the National Senior Softball Hall of Fame in Mustang, Okla.
"It was a long haul and a lot of work. A lot of batting practice," Briones said. "I’ve been very fortunate to play on some very good teams over the years."
Briones’ teams consistently make the finals in the Senior Softball USA national and world championship slow-pitch tournaments, and he is consistently selected as an all-tournament player at those events.
Briones, a second baseman for Omen 65 of Walnut Creek, is among eight players from around the U.S. to join more than 300 players on the National Senior Softball Hall of Fame roster. His official induction is Sept. 30, as Omen 65 competes at the SSUSA World Masters Championships in Las Vegas.
Briones said he has been dedicated to the game ever since 1971. He had served in the U.S. Army, including a tour of duty in Vietnam, and came home to find that softball was big in his home town of San Jose.
"I started playing softball locally in San Jose and progressed through league teams and then tournament teams," he said. He kept playing every year, and eventually he found himself competing against men half his age.
"By the time I was 49 this friend of mine introduced me to senior softball, and said ‘There’s another way to play against guys our own ages, instead of playing against the young guys,’" he said.
The Northern California Senior Softball Association hosts men’s and women’s tournaments, with divisions based on age groups, starting at age 40 with divisions in five-year increments until players reach the 80-plus age group. Divisions are also based on skill level, with AA for the recreational-level players, and the Majors and Major-Plus for the top teams.
Omen 65 is in the top Major-Plus category, as was Briones’ previous team, the Old A’s of Walnut Creek. Briones said most of the Omen players came from the Old A’s, which regularly won national titles.
"The team I’ve been playing for, we have a 15 man roster and eight of those guys are already in the hall of fame, so I give them a lot of credit also," Briones said.
Briones, a 15-year resident of Tracy, said he knows other players from Tracy in different divisions within the NCSSA
"Senior softball is a flourishing sport. You have the different age groups, but also the different bracketing," he said. "The higher you get it’s much more competitive."
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.