Kennewick’s Daryl Idler gets asked now and then if he likes to play golf.
The 70-year-old just smiles and tells them no. He plays slowpitch softball.
Really competitive softball.
“Actually, I prefer this,” he said. “I guess one of the reasons is that I still do it well.”
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Idler plays on a senior men’s softball team, based out of the Seattle area, that travels to tournaments around the country.
The team, called the First American Title 65s, won the Men’s 65 and over Major Division title last month at the World Masters Championships in Las Vegas.
Idler’s squad wasn’t the tourney favorite among the 14 teams in its division. It had been beaten in previous tournaments around the country by some of the competing teams.
But First American went 3-1 in the round-robin portion of the event and 5-0 in the double-elimination portion.
Staying in the winner’s bracket — so you don’t have to play as many games as teams in the loser’s bracket — was key.
“We hit the ball well,” Idler said. “And we scored a lot of runs. We were all hitting line drives. At that age, a lot of us don’t run so well. But you get it in the gap, if it’s a line drive, it’ll roll to the fence and you’ll get extra bases.”
Idler’s team beat Tharaldson of Nevada 23-14 in the championship.
To top things off, Daryl and his wife, Donna, stayed around in Las Vegas the rest of the week to watch their oldest son, Darren, win a championship with his team, the Northwest Legends.
Darren, 52, helped his team win the Men’s 50 and over Major Plus Division title, going 5-2 and beating Sommerville Softball of California 36-30 in the title game.
If the Idlers seem like exceptions to the rule around here, think again. There is a senior softball league in the Tri-Cities that has been successful the past few years.
But what makes Daryl and Darren special is that they choose to still compete at a very high level.
In Las Vegas, there were plenty of like-minded individuals on numerous teams at this event.
In Darren’s age group, there were 99 teams in four different skill-level divisions.
In Daryl’s age group, there were 54 teams in four divisions. There were even 11 teams full of players 80 years and older.
“Playing senior softball is fun because we travel to places we don’t normally go to, like Dallas, Phoenix and Las Vegas,” Daryl said.
For Daryl Idler, softball has been an avocation.
When not playing, he has umpired men’s tournaments over the last 15 years. But playing the game still gives him a kick.
“I started playing softball in 1964 in San Jose,” he said. “I love the camaraderie and just the competition. I guess I’ve done really well at it.”
He has done it for 48 years.In the 1960s and 1970s, when slowpitch softball was king, Idler played with some of the Tri-Cities’ most talented teams — the Playboy Tavern, Burlington Northern and the Chinese Gardens.
But unlike many of his counterparts, Idler kept right on playing while they retired from the game.
Over the years, he has been lucky enough to play in tournaments with Darren.
“At one time, I got to play in a tournament with all four of my boys — Kenny, Eric, Dane and Darren,” he said.
Playing at age 70 isn’t an easy thing, though.
“You kind of got to take care of yourself,” he said. “I guess I’ve been blessed to have done a lot of floor covering over the years to keep me in shape. I go to the (Tri-City) Court Club and exercise every week. I try to stay in decent shape.”
It also helps to have a supportive wife.
“Bless her heart,” Daryl said about Donna. “She lets me still play. As long as my wife allows me to do it and my body keeps going, I’ll keep playing.”
Donna said that’s not a problem.
“I go with him to tournaments,” she said. “I enjoy it. I love watching softball. And I would never tell him to stop playing because it’s something he loves to do.”
There is no stopping him.
Only two years ago, he still played in the Richland Slow-Break Basketball League on Sundays.
“I can still shoot the ball,” he said. “I just can’t run well.”
A few weeks ago, he picked up with another softball team to play in a tournament in the Yakima Valley. He went 15-for-16 at the plate.
Two years ago, he played on a softball team that won a gold medal in the Huntsman World Senior Games in Utah.
“Next, I want to do it in basketball as well,” he said.
To Idler, the idea is to stay active and it’ll help keep you young. So the opportunities might seem limitless.
“I kind of used to be a street fighter back in the day,” he said. “I recently posted on Facebook that if they had UFC for people over 70, I’d do it.”
And he’d do it well, no doubt.