If senior softball had bubble gum cards, hers would look like this:
KAREN CAMPBELL, Venice. Age: 73. Bats: right. Throws: left. Position: catcher. Teams: Southern Fried Legends, Englewood; Freedom Spirit, St. Petersburg.
The back of the card would explain that Campbell competes in a 35-and-older league in Englewood. With a 70-and-older team, she travels to state and national tournaments.
She’s an old-school kind of player who still tucks her shirt into her pants. She wears two batting gloves, even in the field, in case she has to grab a short hop with her throwing hand. And she’s a chatterbox behind the plate.
“All right, ladies,” Campbell shouts. “Two outs — first or second now.”
The Englewood Senior Women’s Softball League is open to players 35 and older, which means Campbell is twice the age of some opponents.
She doesn’t have the arm or range to play shortstop, but she can hold her own behind the plate.
“I’m quick,” she says. “I can’t tell you how many pop fouls I’ve caught.”
At bat, Campbell tries to hit ground balls between third base and shortstop. During the game I saw, she flied out and hit into a fielder’s choice. She also scored a run, moving around the bases on three singles. Sandy Cavin, who founded the Englewood league four years ago, welcomed Campbell to join the fun last year.
“She can throw, she can hit the ball, she can run the bases,” Cavin says. “Those are the basics and she’s got the smarts. She’s got a ballplayer’s mindset.”
I wrote a column about Campbell 11 years ago, when she was the only woman in an Englewood men’s league. She tried to play with a senior men’s group in Franklin, N.C., where she lives in the summer, but that didn’t work out.
“I don’t know how you’d put this,” she told me, laughing, “but I got tired of them having a little too much in their britches.”
Campbell has three children and six grandchildren, but her husband died in 2006. In Englewood, Bob Bechter often goes to her games.
“He’s my companion,” she says. “Call him my paramour.”
Shin guards, knee pads
Campbell is a retired nurse who has managed to avoid major injuries. A couple of years ago, when her knee swelled up after getting hit by a ball, she sterilized a needle and drained it herself.
Now she wears knee pads and shin guards.
In April, her St. Pete team won a tournament in Pensacola. This summer, she’ll be playing in Georgia and Tennessee.
In Englewood, she’s happy to play for the Southern Fried Legends. One of the other teams is called DNR, as in Do Not Resuscitate.
“I said, oh, please don’t put me on that team,” Campbell jokes, “because if I drop at home plate, I do want to be resuscitated.”
The Senior Women’s Softball League in Englewood is always looking for players. There are Wednesday evening games and Saturday morning practices at the Englewood Sports Complex, 1300 S. River Road.
For more information, call 661-4555 or e-mail email@example.com.