Long Island Rays Are The True Boys Of Summer

0
33
Senior baseball teams looks to expand playing opportunities for adult ball players
The 2020 Long Island Rays squad.
(Photo by Dipti Shah)

The late Jim Bouton once said, “A ballplayer spends a good piece of his life gripping a baseball, and in the end, it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.” So it goes for Ray Shah, the founding member and player with the Long Island Rays, a Long Island-based men’s senior baseball team. Launched in 2012, the Rays are a group of 45 and over former baseball players continuing in what Shah says are, “…our dreams of playing the game we all love… we play across Nassau and Suffolk counties as well as participate in regional and national baseball tournaments.”

Featuring a squad of between 17 and 18 players, the Rays got its start when Shah was approaching the half-century mark about a decade ago when he decided he wanted to focus on the game he loved. Both his sons were lefty pitchers and through their grade-school years, the Sunnyside native spent their grade school years watching them play and occasionally catching them. As his kids aged out, Shah admitted having an itch to start playing again. After trying out and making a team as a pitcher, he bounced around to a couple of teams that folded before deciding to start one of his own. Over time, he went from landing random players to recruiting from within. At this point, the team has an interesting assortment of players aged 45 and over, including a father/son player duo.

Ray Shah getting ready to play at a national tournament in West Palm Beach, FL in Nov 2021 at the Houston Astros spring training facility.
(Photo by Dipti Shah)

“I am proud of where we are today as we have two former professional baseball coaches on our roster,” Shah explained. “All in all, we have a great group of guys for our 45+ team. We have a family environment. Families come to watch us play. We have retired NYPD, NYFD, business owners, teachers and other professionals on our team—which makes for great post-game conversations in the parking lots. And our very first father/son player combo is precisely what makes senior baseball so special.. a son playing on a same team with the person that taught them the game of baseball… things like this is what makes playing baseball at our age so very special.”

The Rays try to keep baseball on a year-round schedule. Winter workouts that run from January through March give way to outdoor practices conducted at their home park of Greenlawn Park in the Town of Huntington until the start of the season, which is typically mid to late-April. The regular season goes into July, with games being played at the teams throughout Long Island. Fall ball goes into November, with the year wrapping up with the team competing in a national tournament down in West Palm Beach, FL. It’s a dream come true for many of the Rays players.

“These tournaments are played at professional venues,” Shah pointed out. “We will be playing at the spring training facility for the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. As kids, we dreamed of playing in a professional stadium. Now, at our progressive age, we actually get to pitch from the same mound as Garret Cole did and hit in the same batter’s box as Aaron Judge does… this whole experience is about being a kid all over again—for those of us that played baseball in our youth and were never a part of a game at these stadiums.”

The next major stretch of games the Rays are set to play in is the Eisenhower Park Spring Tournament, which is being managed by LI Midweek Baseball. It’s being held on the April 8-10 weekend and benefits LS Wounded Warriors and Men’s Breast Cancer Awareness. With most of the Rays players in their early-mid 50’s with a few exceptions of a couple of 45-year old “kids,” Shah is on a major recruitment mission to add a new older group of players (age 54+). Anyone making the cut can expect to play in several different tournaments across several different leagues that are local, regional and national during the course of the year. Shah is encouraging former players to get back in the saddle.

Ray Shah batting against a former major leaguer Dante Bichette during a Nov ’21 Florida tournament.
(Photo by Dipti Shah)

“I am sure there are a lot of ‘old’ guys sitting around that may want to dust off their baseball gloves and bats and play the game we all love so much,” he said.

The Long Island Rays will be playing as part of the Eisenhower Park Spring Tournament from April 8-10. Visit www.liraysbaseball.com to find out more about the Long Island Rays.

 

Leave a Reply