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Softball keeps over-70 pair active

Wednesday, July 1, 2009 | 11:22 p.m. CDT; updated 8:27 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 2, 2009
Norris Kruse connects for a base hit up the middle in an over-50 softball league game on Tuesday at the Rainbow Softball Center at Cosmopolitan Park.

COLUMBIA — His knees bend to get ready to catch a bright yellow softball. Stan Kline pounds the web of his glove in anticipation and crouches behind home plate with the sun reflecting off his sunglasses waiting for the floating ball. The ball is hit sharply toward first baseman Norris Kruse and bounces of his glove and ricochets off his cleats.

"My foot is going to be sore in the morning," says Kruse, who played two games on Tuesday.

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This is a weekly activity for Kline, 70, and Kruse, 73, who are the oldest members of the Columbia Parks and Recreation softball league. They play and manage the Betz Jewelry team in the men's over-50 league at Cosmopolitan Park every Tuesday night during the season.

Despite their ages, Kruse and Kline stay active not only playing softball, but in other ways as well.

Kruse, a former athletic director at Oakland Junior High School who has played softball in the recreational league and the Missouri Senior Games for 10 years, said he doesn't plan on giving up the game anytime soon. 

"When you've been around athletics as long as I have, you don't want to quit," Kruse said. "I want to play for as long as I can."

Off the softball field, Kruse is an avid biker. He goes out two to three times a week and rides for an hour and a half around his neighborhood and on the Katy Trail. 

"I like to go down to the trail and enjoy the scenery," Kruse said.

Kline moved to Columbia in 1994 and has played in the recreational league since then.  He, like Kruse, said he plans on playing in the league for as long as he can.

"I don't want it to end, I want to stay in shape and stay in touch with the community," Kline said.

Kline has been an active participant in the senior games for 13 years playing in the softball tournaments and competing in washers and the softball and football throwing competitions. Kline also gets up between 6 and 8 p.m almost every day and walks three and a half miles around his neighborhood. He said he estimates he has walked 16,000 miles since moving to Columbia. 

According to Kline, he and Kruse started the first Columbia over-60 team for the senior games. They started the team in 2005, assembling the team from players from the recreational summer league.

A member of the Betz Jewelry team, Ron Armentrout, 62, has played with Kline and Kruse for five years.

"It's great that they can play at that age," Armentrout said. "They are fun to play with, and they are good guys."

In 2007, Kline and Kruse had a hard time finding players for the senior games.  This year they will choose 13 of the 20 players from the recreational league that are eligible.

Kruse said he looks forward to the competition in the tournament, and hopes to encourage more seniors to join the league.

"Maybe a 58-year-old well go out and see us play and say 'hey maybe I can play softball too,'" Kruse said.


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