Lighthouse Lookouts 50-over slowpitch softball team:
Player -- Pos. -- Notable old team
Bobby Adams -- OF -- Taco Bell
Tony Bartley -- INF -- Village Market
Al Cox -- OF -- Trinity-Woodmore
Kevin Highsmith -- INF -- Bayside Baptist Blue
Jeff Jones -- INF -- Taco Bell
Scottey Lewis -- INF -- Cold Spot
Kevin Look -- INF -- Maine
Frank Markley -- INF -- Dayton, Ohio
Steve Moffett -- OF -- Lighthouse Baptist
Blake Parham -- INF -- Luv Homes
Art Pendergrass -- INF -- Herb Adcox Chevrolet
David Reynolds -- OF -- Langston Paint
Van Shumaker -- INF -- Bayside Baptist Blue
Mark Talley -- OF -- Chatsworth, Ga.
Bo Walker -- P -- Trinity-Woodmore
Rodney Waters -- INF -- Lighthouse Baptist
Butch Womack -- INF -- Lighthouse Baptist
Mike Wood -- INF -- Lighthouse Baptist
Rex Elmore Jr. -- MGR -- Lighthouse Baptist
Bud Pressley -- MGR -- Lee Hwy C of G/Lighthouse
Rex Elmore Jr. has followed through on his notion of getting some of the old gang back together. Yes, the old gang. Not the over-the-hill gang.
Elmore, whose Lighthouse Baptist men's slowpitch softball teams from 1991 through 2002 collected weekend-tournament championships at a bountiful rate, has assembled the Lighthouse Lookouts -- a 50-and-over team sponsored by the Athletic Shop.
"We've all played against each other over the years," said 57-year-old Butch Womack, who has been associated with Elmore the longest of any member of the new team. "We had to talk some of the guys out of retirement."
Some of Elmore's current team, like Womack, came from the Lighthouse Baptist legacy. Others came from other notable former local teams, such as Kevin Highsmith and Van Shumaker with Bayside Baptist Blue. A few players came from other states.
"I've always stayed real active doing something," the 53-year-old Highsmith said. "I know the good Lord led me down this path for a reason."
The group came together for the first time last year and immediately dominated in the Class AAA division of 50-and-over. As a result, this year the team has been moved up to the major division.
The Lighthouse Lookouts will be competing in their first national tournament of 2014 this weekend at Dalton's Heritage Point Park in the Softball Players Association 50-plus major men's world championship. Their first scheduled game Friday is against the Rochester (N.Y.) 50s at 11:30 a.m. They're set to take on the Southern Elite, based in Woodstock, Ga., at 2:30 p.m. Both games will be on Field E4.
Although it's a small sample size, the path the Lighthouse Lookouts are on as seniors appears to be eerily similar to the one Lighthouse Baptist took.
In the early 1990s Lighthouse Baptist won three church national titles before moving up and competing in open-division tournaments. Elmore recalled that in 1995, the first year of the upgrade in scheduling, the team had a record of 134-52.
"We played every weekend," Elmore said.
That's no longer the case.
"My wife said, 'You're not going to start doing that again, are you?'" Womack said. "I said, 'Not to the extent we did every weekend.' It's too hard to recuperate."
But like the old days, last year as a AAA team the Lighthouse Lookouts (34-6 in tournaments against AAA competition, 8-6 in open tournaments) played in seven national tournaments and won five. And even this year when they haven't won -- they're 19-13 overall, tying for first place in their age group in the Senior Olympics when the "if" game was rained out -- they've often been the highest-finishing major team when super major teams compete in the same tournament.
The core group of the Lighthouse Lookouts -- Highsmith and Womack included -- was playing for a senior team called the 49ers, which dissolved a couple of years ago.
"We thought we were going to be the Lighthouse 49ers," Elmore said. "But the guys that came over said they wanted to start something new, start something fresh. We kept Lighthouse and modified it to Lookouts. Lookouts, that's Chattanooga, isn't it?"
Although the overall makeup of the team comes from various softball backgrounds, there is a standard each player much meet to be a part of it. And it goes beyond the ability to play softball.
"They're great guys and all of them have different personalities," Highsmith said. "If they want to call me the team chaplain, I'll take that, but what I like about playing for this team is that they're all God-fearing men and, win or lose, we always have great fellowship."
They do still have the ability to play softball, even though some arms may be a little less strong and the legs have slowed a few steps. But equipment has improved, making an already formidable slugger such as Mike Wood, who is second in tenure to Womack in playing for Elmore, as nightmarish to face as ever.
Womack, a pitcher, said the bats that seniors are allowed to use aren't legal for regular play.
"It makes it even tougher," Womack said. "That ball back up the middle is dangerous."
Weekend after next the Lighthouse Lookouts will travel to Boaz, Ala., for the National Softball Association 50-plus World Series, which they won a year ago. They just hope they'll be coming off winning their first major title when they go.
"In my mind, we formed the team to do exactly what we're doing," Elmore said. "But because we were so successful, we had to move up to the next level. We may not have the home run hitters some of these other major teams have, but good baserunning and defense are the primary things we do have. I still think we can do well."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.