Rim country senior softball is undergoing a face lift.
The Payson Grays is now known as the Panthers.
A handful of local seniors have hooked up with Prescott to form a joint team.
Four former Grays players are now playing on the inaugural Payson Spoilers squad.
The changes all started with the Grays which for about as long as any local can recall has been the Rim country's lone senior team. The team's origins go back more than two decades when it competed in the Town of Payson men's league against much younger players than those on the Gray's roster.
The team absorbed some beatings in the early years but continued to compete attracting more and more players into its fold.
Several years ago, the team began to compete in pickup games in the Valley and during the summer months at Rumsey Park, inviting teams from Phoenix and Prescott to join them.
Recently, some of the Grays players expressed desires to change the team name to Panthers. The reason for the new moniker, coach Ron Maksymowski said, is because "some of the players said they just weren't that old to be called 'Gray.'" The ex-Grays --now the Panthers --are currently participating in a 55-years-and-over winter league that plays all its games at Prospector Park in Apache Junction.
Led by Maksymowski, some older Panther players have joined forces with Prescott seniors to form the "PrePay" 65-year-and-over team which is competing in Fountain Hills.
Another Payson team was formed when former Grays players Dave Crowell, Tom Neblett, Billy Joe Winchester and Fran Doering founded the Spoilers, which is currently participating in the Red Mountain League in Mesa. The foursome continues to play with the Panthers, but most of the energies are now devoted to the Spoilers.
The new senior team was founded, Crowell said, to give the four players the option to step up from the recreational softball level of their Payson Grays playing days to a more competitive level.
The Red Mountain League, Crowell said "is the valley's most competitive league with teams from all over Arizona and even one team from Canada."
In addition to the Payson foursome, the Spoilers roster sports six members who formerly played on the national senior championship Boys of Summer team, Crowell said.
The Spoilers' debuted Jan. 5 in Mesa finishing with a 12-12 tie against the Canadian team and a 12-8 victory over a Phoenix squad.
The tie -- in which Winchester was the pitcher of record --was not played off because the time limit had expired.
In game two, Crowell said, "top defensive play at second base by Doering, a home run by Neblett and a triple by Winchester fueled the convincing victory."
Crowell also turned in several good defensive plays in the outfield.
The Spoilers will continue to play each Wednesday at Red Mountain Park in Mesa.
Crowell invites local fans to turn out and enjoy the sport.
The combo squad
The PrePay team split its season-opening doubleheader against the Fountain Hills Kook Kats, winning the opener 16-11 but dropping the nightcap 8-7.
In the twin bill, Don Belosek and Walt Knasick contributed four hits each. R.J.Williams, Don McPeek, Dick Johnson and Bob Nelson pounded out three hits apiece, Maksymowski said.
Maksymowski was credited with the victory in the first; Nelson was the losing pitcher in the second game.
The Panthers opened the winter season splitting a twin bill with Florence Gardens. In the opener, the Rim seniors fell 12-11, but quickly rebounded to take the second game 16-4.
Shoddy fielding in the first game, including a dropped fly ball that would have been the third out, led to five unearned runs and the demise of the Panthers, Maksymowski said. In the second game, the Panthers roared back into contention with an offense that pounded out 23 hits and a defense that played almost error-less ball.
"The hitting and defense was flawless," Maksymowski said.
Doering was the offensive leader, finishing 4-for-4 at the plate with one home run. Earle Davis was also a perfect 4-for-4, one of which was a double. Defensively, Corb Corbin, Ken Jackson and Walt Knasick played error-free ball in the outfield, the coach said.