When Sue Clough hung up her softball glove at age 50, she never expected to be told 29 years later that she was too young to play.
But when she learned last year about “Keeping Seniors in the Game,” a promotion for seniors to toss out the first pitch at a National Baseball Congress World Series game, the then 79-year-old didn’t make the cut; she wasn’t the minimum age of 80.
“I was just dying to do that,” Clough said.
She’ll get her wish when she takes the mound Aug. 5 to open an NBC game at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita.
If Clough could channel her passion for baseball into her pitch, she’d likely burn a hole in the catcher’s mitt. She’s been a baseball and softball fanatic since childhood.
Growing up on a 90-acre farm near Ambia, Indiana, she picked up a love of the game from her father.
“Every night in the summertime, he’d take us out to play,” she said.
Discs substituted for bases in games that included a brother and two sisters.
“We had just two mitts,” she said. “If you were lucky you got to use one.”
As a junior high student in a Catholic girls school, Clough taught the game to other girls so she could play during recess. After school, she and a sister sought out tougher competition against boys.
“My sister and I were one of the first picked for the teams,” she said.
In high school, she aspired to play for a nearby women’s team, but they disbanded the year she graduated.
She also became a “live and die” Chicago Cubs fan listening to games on radio. Her enthusiasm hasn’t waned even though the Cubs haven’t won the World Series in more than 100 years.
When she moved to Gillette, Wyoming, her first income tax refund went to buy a satellite dish so she could watch Cubs games. She has a collection of player and team memorabilia, traveled to Las Vegas this spring for two spring training games, and shares a birthday with 1960s star third-baseman Ron Santo.
Clough passed on her love of the game to her children and grandchildren, and when grandson Chance Miles signed to play for Tabor College in 2002, it was adios Wyoming, hello Kansas.
“I couldn’t bear the thought of missing any of his games,” she said.
She lived at the Elgin Hotel his first season and with Madonna Schafers and Charlie and Blanche Cowan the next.
She started attending Catholic services in Florence. When members told her how much they needed her music during Chance’s third season with the Bluejays, Clough decided to move here permanently.
Clough exercises regularly but hasn’t thrown a ball in a long time. She plans to get in some practice before she goes to Wichita. She’d like to toss a strike.
“I don’t know; I hope so,” she said. “I think I can control the ball enough. I don’t know about the distance.”
Clough was nominated for Keeping Seniors in the Game by North Central Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging, for which she is a board member. She also is president of Marion Senior Center Board.