Little Big League: Association Keeps Adults Playing Ball
Over more than two decades, the National Adult Baseball Association has given grown-up players who miss the game the chance to recapture a bit of their childhood.
It’s hard to get into the major leagues—and let’s face it, very few people ever get that opportunity. Still, there’s a way for people who love the game of baseball, but may not be able to make a career of it, to keep playing.
That’s where the National Adult Baseball Association comes in. NABA, which represents local baseball leagues around the United States, has been around since 1993. It’s mission: to help people have fun and stay active in a game that many nonprofessionals don’t play past high school.
“NABA is not about signing big-league contracts, but developing friends and a community of adult baseball players who feel blessed to still have the ability and opportunity to still play the game they love,” NABA explains on its website. “It’s not about being paid to play, but about the opportunity to still compete and play the game hard, and to earn a win or a championship through a combined effort of other individuals who love the game and are blessed to still be able to play.”
It’s not the majors; it’s not even the minors. But the players, such as Justin Hendrickson of NABA’s Carolinas league, are happy to be there.
“Everybody, in the back of their mind I believe, is still chasing that dream that they still want to be a pro baseball player when they grow up,” Hendrickson told the Fayetteville Observer recently. “They just don’t realize we’re all grown up yet.”
Each individual league—there are dozens, with most U.S. states represented—has its own schedule and local organization, and many have tournaments and World Series events of their own. And no, they’re not playing softball.
In a lot of ways, a bit of the Little League spirit is carried into adulthood—though some players bring serious skills to the game, such as former Green River Community College player John Dauenhauer, who now plays in the NABA league around Billings, Montana.
“It was pretty depressing when I came back and thought my playing days were over,” Dauenhauer told the Billings Gazette last year. “Now I have that opportunity again.”