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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pitcher, 70, Seeks Short Professional Play

Ed Menaker would like to show other older adults they can still be active but so far hasn’t found any willing teams so he can prove his point.

Ed Menaker last played professional baseball in 1968 but that hasn’t stopped the 70-year-old from trying to find a minor league team that will let him pitch for a single inning. That’s it. Just three outs. So far, no one seems to take him seriously.

It’s more than just wanting to reconnect with his younger self who once played for South Dakota’s minor league team, the Aberdeen Pheasants, the farm team for the Baltimore Orioles. Even then, at age 22, he was too old for the Orioles, who wanted players right out of high school.

Instead, Menaker, who lives in the Chicago area, went into journalism—first print and then TV. His search for assignments took him on a two-year backpacking trip all over the world, including Afghanistan, Cambodia and Laos. His journalism career culminated in a PBS documentary series on science adventure called “New Explorers,” which won him a Peabody Award. For CBS, he also produced a highly praised film on the black slave trade.

More recently, when he went to work for Terra Nova Films in Chicago, he wanted to focus on aging issues and inspire other seniors to stay active. He thought he could do this by pitching for a professional team, for just three outs, but, as he says, he hasn’t been able to make it to first base in that regard. He wonders if people don’t want to deal with older adults.

Recently, Menaker tried out for the Gary (Ind.) SouthShore RailCats independent minor league team, which has an open tryout. He surprised himself by doing very well. Even though he hadn’t pitched professionally for 50 years, he struck out two “young guys” and broke the bat of another. He enjoyed the camaraderie of being among fellow ballplayers, young men a third of his age who treated him like he was just another ballplayer. Still, no offers to play were forthcoming.