Steamboat Springs The familiar ping of the bat and the slap of softballs hitting leather gloves returned to the fields at Howelsen Hill Monday night.
The Adult Softball League added five teams this year, driving the total to 51 teams over four leagues with a men's, women's and two coed divisions.
"I think more people are wanting to get involved with softball," said coordinator Christian Talli. "It's been growing steadily for the past few years. I think they're out there for the social aspect and to be competitive."
The coed leagues play Tuesdays and Thursdays, the men's division plays Mondays and the women's division plays Wednesdays. The first games are played at 6:15 p.m. with the latest games starting at 9:15 p.m., going seven innings or 55 minutes, whichever comes first.
Talli said that although it is too late to register, interested individuals could still contact team captains who might need an extra glove or bat. Most teams feature a roster of anywhere from 15 to 20 players, although there has been a shortage of women on the coed teams.
The program has been in place for close to 18 years, said Talli, who is in his second stint as coordinator. A significant change has been the consolidation of the two men's skill-based leagues from last year into a single league.
Every team will get to play each other over seven weeks, then be divided into the top seven and bottom eight teams. Two more weeks of competition will determine the playoff rankings for the final two weeks of championship play. Women play a nine-week regular season with two weeks of playoffs.
Chris Stillwell has been playing for 12 years as part of the Alpine Taxi team, winning several championships in the men's league.
"It has always been competitive no matter how you look at it," Stillwell said. "Even though you might get smoked a few times by the upper teams, you still have a chance at what would be a B-league championship. It's the ones on the bubble who might not have as good a shot at an A-league championship."