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Quimby still going strong on the diamond

Jay Quimby is 81 years old, and he will be the first one to tell you that going down for a ground ball is a little tougher now than it was a few years ago.

He will also be the first one to tell you this: His age doesn’t mean the softball skills are gone.

Far from it, really.

“The diving catches are still there, but there just aren’t as many,” Quimby said with a laugh. “Well (the skills have) all slowed down a little. Everything is slowed down. The bases get further apart every year. The ground gets further away and frequently some balls go underneath my glove because I didn’t get down far enough.”

Still, Quimby, a former math teacher at Ashland High School, doesn’t let his age get in the way of the game he picked up during retirement.

“Everybody at this stage of the game is really laid back and just having a good time,” he said. “If you do say something, you better be careful because you’re going to turn around and make that same error. I’ve been pretty fortunate because I’ve still got pretty good wheels.”

Quimby is going on his third decade of playing senior softball, something he took up after stepping aside from teaching in 1997. Twenty-three years ago, on a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, he met a senior softball player and learned what kind of opportunity it could be.

He took the opportunity and ran with it.

He mostly plays as a second baseman, an outfielder or as a “rover” up the middle of the infield, which he says he enjoys quite a bit since the rover is “always the first play of a double play.”

“I’ve learned how to play games with hitters, and I’ll stand right behind the pitcher so that I’m blocked from the batter,” Quimby said. “I can’t see the batter, but I can see because it’s slow pitch and the ball arcs. I watch the pitch, and if the pitch is going right into the center or the inside, I’ll move to that side while the ball is still in the air.

“It’s just playing games with hitters because a lot of them have gone out of the power hitting and go to place hitting, which I do, too. The name of the game is to get on base.”

Until late this summer, Quimby played on three different teams — one local recreational team through the Rogue Valley Softball Association that plays at U.S. Cellular Community Park; the Oregon Roadrunners, who play in the Northwest Travel League and compete in tournaments from Northern California to Washington; and on the Git-R-Done team, which plays in tournaments all over the United States..

The Southern California-based Git-R-Done has players from across the country who play in age groups in the 70s, 75s and 80s.

Quimby and his 80s teammates traveled to St. George, Utah, for a pair of tournaments the last two months.

The first was in the middle of August for the Western National Championships, which turned into a defacto national championship tournament since their usual cross-country opposition from the eastern region didn’t make the trip due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, the team returned to St. George to play in the World Masters Championships.

Quimby and Git-R-Done won all of the major events, capturing the “Triple Grand Slam.”

“It’s kind of a bragging thing,” Quimby said. “We got a new pair of shoes and a big, gaudy ring with our names on it.”

As one would expect, the 2020 tournaments looked and felt different than in other years due to the pandemic.

Tournaments that might have taken place in normal times in California, Oregon and Washington ended up being canceled. The Western National Championships were originally scheduled to be played in Las Vegas, Nevada, before being moved to St. George.

While in St. George, things were kept incredibly strict, according to Quimby. Everybody had to wear masks. Social distancing in the dugout was mandatory. Senior Softball USA, the governing body of the regional and national tournaments, had umpires who kept a close eye on the players to make sure they complied with COVID-19 guidelines.

“It’s a mask or you don’t play. Everybody realized that,” Quimby said. “None of us fooled around with it and we stuck right to it. We’re at the age now where we’re the most vulnerable to this thing.”

The September trip to Utah was his last, Quimby said, as far as traveling for softball. But that doesn’t mean he’s done with the sport for good. He still plans on playing in pick-up games at U.S. Cellular Community Park.

Instead of lots of traveling to tournaments, Quimby and his wife Lila are planning trips together.

“She said, ‘Let’s do some traveling while we still have our good health,’ and I said, ‘I’m right there with ya,’” Quimby said. “I’m going to still stay active and I still plan to play rec ball here in Medford.”

Regardless of where softball takes him over the next few years, Quimby realizes just how meaningful the sport has become in his life.

Grounders may be a little tougher to get to in 2021 compared to 2020 or 2019, but that won’t mean the fun he has at second base or in the outfield will be diminished.

“What (softball) has meant to me is, the camaraderie and the friendships that develop out of this thing is absolutely phenomenal,” Quimby said. “I mean, there’s long, long, longtime friendships and renewed friendships. At this stage of the game, it’s pretty much all social, and it’s a social life thing. It really has been wonderful.”

Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.

Jay Quimby, pictured here making a play at second base in 2016, was part of a senior softball team of players all over the age of 80 years old that won a pair of Senior Softball USA tournaments in August and September. (courtesy photo)
Jay Quimby, third from right in the front row, and the rest of his Git-R-Done teammates pose for a photo after a game at the Senior Softball USA Western National Championships in St. George, Utah. (courtesy photo)