The recent Guam Masters Baseball League championship game between the Guam Financial Company Nationals and Santa Rita Braves packed the stands, with the Braves gutting out an 8-6 thriller to capture their second straight masters title.
The immensely popular spring league featured 10 teams and was open to players who turned 40 years or older during the 2019 calendar year.
For several years, there has been talk of starting a 50-and-over league, with a large number of veteran players enjoying the chance to relive their glory days in the historic confines of Paseo Stadium in Hagåtña, against kids their own age.
Now, due to great demand, the Guam Masters Baseball Association will host the inaugural 50+ Guam Masters Baseball League, scheduled to start Saturday. Bank of Guam and Ambros/Budweiser will return as official sponsors.
The game schedule includes a double round robin, with all teams advancing to a seeded single-elimination playoff. Games will be played at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays, with makeup games designated for Monday nights.
Teams participating in the inaugural season include the Bud Light Rockin' 50s, Yona Gold Masters, MTM Falcons and C-Menz.
Players must be turning 50 years old during the 2019 calendar year to play in the 50+ league, although teams will also be allowed three players 48 years old or older to help fill out rosters. These “chip” players must turn 48 years old before the season begins.
Players must use wood or wood composite bats.
Dave Quitugua, Guam Masters Baseball Association president, said he expects more teams to come out next season, noting, “We hope that by getting this division off the ground, it will bring more interest in the 2020 season.”
Masters baseball and softball have steadily risen in popularity, and in recent years, GMBL games have attracted more fans than Guam Major League games.
Masters teams have also seen success off island, with the Guam Islander Sports Association Bud Light 40+ men’s slow-pitch team winning the 2017 World Masters AAA Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Bud Light Rockin' 50s will hope to repeat that feat on the big diamond, sending a team to the 2019 Masters World Series championship from Oct. 6 to 12 in Phoenix, Arizona. The 50+ GMBL gives them additional games as they prepare to go off island.
“The team is made up of 50-year-old-plus legacy players from the old-school day when GML and Guam Amateur Baseball was competitive in the 1980s and '90s,” said Rockin' 50s player and manager John Manibusan.
The athletes are looking at the next level.
“In the past, Guam Masters would compete in Australia and has taken home the gold. This year, we will be going to the U.S. where there are CHamoru fans who come out to support our island,” Manibusan said.
The 50+ GMBL invites everyone to come out to the venerable Paseo Stadium and grab a hot dog and refreshment for the season opener at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, when the Yona Gold Masters host the MTM Falcons.