A group of Mulberry seniors are headed to the state bean bag championship on May 5 after winning the first regional competition earlier this year.
About 12 seniors make up the Mulberry Senior Inn team, the Dirt Dobbers. To win the regional competition on March 10, they competed against teams from Cedarville, Van Buren, Charleston, Paris, Barling and Alma.
Area Agency on Aging organized the regional tournament after several local teams, including Mulberry, attended the state championship last year, said Brittany Dyas, Area Agency on Aging grant and housing coordinator.
“After we went and saw how fun it was, we came back and started encouraging some of the other centers to play,” Dyas said.
Originally, two or three centers formed teams and were holding games on their own, Dyas said. There are now 10 area teams that compete regionally, she said.
Bean bag baseball is a tossing game with rules similar to those of regular baseball. Rather than swinging a bat, players toss bean bags at a board with cutouts labeled for single to triple hits, foul balls, and a home run.
Chairs substitute for bases, with the point from which the players toss considered “home.” No running or catching is involved, but players move down the line of chairs as a “hit” is “struck,” up to six runs.
Team members must be 55 or older, said Mulberry Senior Center Director JB Davis. Games are played all year except during end-of-the-year holidays, she said.
Mulberry’s team was created in March 2016. They practice every Thursday and have about four games a month, Davis said.
Bean bag baseball is encouraged as an exercise and socialization program, Dyas said.
“One of the goals of senior centers is to provide activities to keep the seniors active,” Dyas said, “because the more active we keep them, the less likely they are to end up stuck at home or on a gurney on the way to the hospital. The more active we keep them, the longer they’re going to live.”
For the players, the game is all about fun, said Clara Lollis, the Dirt Dobbers team captain.
“We meet a lot of good people like this, people we normally wouldn’t meet,” Lollis said. “It’s just good fellowship.”
A pep rally for the Dirt Dobbers is set for May 4 at 6 p.m.