Article as it appears in the January 2013 edition of New England Baseball Journal Magazine.
01/01/13: All ballplayers share one statistic. Each year, they are a year older.
Another statistic: According to 2010 U.S. census data, more people graduate from college in Boston than any other metro area in the United States. During and after college, many of these kids play baseball in local amateur leagues. And 10 years after that, these guys are ready for the senior leagues. Therefore, it’s not surprising that senior leagues in Boston have seen explosive growth in recent years. One of the key men behind this growth is Paul Harrington.
Paul Harrington (right) runs several senior leagues, including the 38+ division
of the Boston Amateur Baseball League which features the North Shore Reds.
lives in South
where he moved
two years ago. Before
that, he spent the previous 53 years of his
life living smack in the middle of Boston.
Harrington was never blessed with the
skills to play high school or college ball,
but he always had the bug to play.
In 1977, Harrington started a team
in the Boston City League. As its name
suggested, the City League was run
by the City of Boston, and consisted
of loosely organized games as a recreational
activity. Years later, the league
transitioned to the Boston Twi-League,
also run by the city. Eventually, the Twi-
League broke off from the city and became
the Boston Junior Park League
— the “minor league” counterpart of
the still prominent Boston Park League.
Today, the Boston Junior Park League
has grown into the Yawkey League, one
of the city’s prominent amateur leagues
Harrington moved along to other baseball
circles about 1988. It was then that the
Boston Men’s Senior Baseball League
(MSBL) was formed. Paul added a team
to their Age 30+ division, and ultimately
became vice president of the league.
In 2003, Harrington started his own
league, the Boston Amateur Baseball
League (BABL). He continues to serve
as president of that league today, also
managing a team in each of his three age
divisions. Paul heads the Metro Blue Jays
in the Age 38+ division, the Montgomery
Blue Jays in the Age 48+ division, and the
Mudville Nine in the Age 55+ division —
a new division that was just added last
season, and as far as he is aware, the oldest
age division league in New England.
The age splits may seem peculiar.
There are several 30+ or 40+ leagues,
but 38+ and 48+ seems like odd age
breaks. I asked Paul about this.
“We went with slightly younger ages
than we wanted to attract more players,”
Harrington said. “Each time a
league comes along for an older group,
people are hesitant to embrace it because it makes them feel
old. So the league takes
some time to grow. Going
with 38+ mostly attracts
those aged 40 or older, but
allows them to feel a little
younger and be more accepting
of playing in the
The BABL began with
11 teams a decade ago. In
2013, Harrington expects double that
count, fielding 22 teams.
“When I was really young, you played
baseball into your 20s, then retired to play
softball. Now, a 38-year-old guy can be
a rookie again in a senior league. Those
younger guys all make it to the older
leagues eventually. A lot of those guys
continue to play in the younger leagues,
too, so they are playing in both leagues.
There is a lot of baseball being played.”
If players old enough to play in senior
leagues had the talent to play in
the premier leagues, why would they
played senior league at all?
“It’s hard for guys who are 40 to
play with guys who are 18. Even if
they can keep up ability-wise, there is
something different going on with the
cultural exchange,” Harrington said.
“Being older, my perspective on life
is different. The language, the slang,
the technology. It’s all vastly different.
By playing with people more my own
age, I can have conversations where we
don’t leave anybody feeling left out.”
As players age, they actually gain more flexibility to play baseball.
“As younger guys get older, they
have children, and their kids become
important, and they have less of a commitment
to an adult baseball league. After
their kids get older and don’t want
Dad around as much, these guys have
more time to play baseball again. I especially
see this see in the 48+ league.
They have more time because other
things that once kept them busy are not
as crucial. Their kids don’t need them.
They don’t need to push as hard at work
for the next promotion. They can focus
more on baseball. They have more time.
And they want to play again.”
Contrary to one what might think,
Harrington doesn’t believe that getting
older impacts the competition level either.
“Baseball is baseball, no matter
what level you’re playing at. As long
as both teams are equal, you have the
same competition level. Off the field, it
might be different. But on the field, everybody
plays to win. Players actually
tend to work better with their teammates
when they get older. They have
more of a mature attitude. Once you
get between the lines, it’s still a bunch
of old guys playing a kids game.”
It’s easy to understand why at age
55, Paul added a 55+ league last season.
But when does it stop. 60+? 70+? 80+?
“As long as the demand is there, we’ll
get older and keep playing baseball.”
Older ballplayers looking to join a
league, or existing leagues looking for
cross-league competition, can contact
Harrington at firstname.lastname@example.org.