Honor Roll: Randall Guard, Central Arkansas
|Randall Guard takes a hack during league play. Guard presides of the Central Arkansas MSBL's 25-and-older division.
By Matt Kemeny, MSBL On-Line
For Randall Guard, it started with a small advertisement in the Houston Chronicle.
Guard, then 30, hadn't played ball in more than a decade when for two summers in 1975 and 1976 he went to Phillies camp in Fort Lauderdale and tried unsuccessfully to play his way onto the single-A roster.
He was actually looking for a fast-pitch softball league, but when the opportunity arose to play hardball again, he jumped at it immediately.
Several years later Guard moved to Little Rock, Ark. Still passionate about baseball with him, he joined and eventually took the reins of the 25+ Central Arkansas Mens' Senior Baseball League.
The league formed in 1989 with six teams, but grew to 12 in the mid-90s after Guard took over. These days, the league fields about nine teams which draw from a 75-mile radius and play mostly at high school fields, Guard said. It also holds an all-star game and league playoffs every year.
In 2000, the league ditched the aluminum bats in favor of traditional wood bats.
The league is the Buffalo Bills of the MSBL, having finished in second place eight times in the past 21 trips to Phoenix. It's also come close to winning the Fall Classic in southern Florida several times, he said. "We're the eternal bridesmaids,” the 55-year-old upstate New York-native said.
|"We're probably going to play until we die..........” Randall Guard
|Three years ago at the World Series, Guard pitched nine innings
||against the 11-time champion
Sacramento Tribe, leaving with a 2-1 deficit. A day later, Guard was back on the mound pitching 7 more innings and holding the Tribe to a pair of runs in a win. After the series, Guard, an office manager and surgical technician at his wife's obstetrics and gynecology office, returned to Arkansas to discover he had a torn rotator cuff, but that did not diminish the experience.
"It was well worth it in my book,” he said. "It was the biggest thrill of my life.”
Guard, having had two shoulder surgeries, now plays second base and designated hitter for his Pirates team. He and his friends in the league wonder how long they're going to play.
The league is getting progressively younger, he said. It began as 30+, but later moved to 25+ but pitchers have to be 28+.
The league advertises 100 percent by word of mouth. It can be difficult to find players since the league has only about a half-million people to draw from in Central Arkansas, Guard said.
When he was in his 30s, Guard and his friends looked at players in their 40s and said there's no way they're playing that long. When they hit 40, they looked at players in their 50s and said there's no way they're playing that long.
Both times they were wrong.
"We're probably going to play until we die,” Guard said. "I'll never quit.”