Some around the area may remember the contributions Allen “Dutch” Smith made to the 1980 fast-pitch softball state champion Morris Merchants as their cleanup hitter and first baseman.
Fewer probably remember a 21-year-old Smith playing for a team sponsored by the Morris Moose Lodge several years prior.
Smith is still playing softball today. Now 66, Smith is a member of a slow-pitch team for 65- to 70-year-olds based in West Palm Beach, Fla. Being based there does not mean the team plays there often, however; Smith says it travels across the country playing in “national” tournaments against teams similar to itself.
“Almost every week, there is a national tournament somewhere,” Smith said. “We have to pick out which ones we want to go to.
“In Florida, we’re geared more towards playing teams east of the Mississippi River, but we do go out west. ... I’ve played as far away as Seattle.”
When Smith retired and moved to Florida from Morris in 1997, he took over two decades of fast-pitch experience with him. He played for a number of years with the Merchants, and while his teams had experienced some success prior to 1980, it culminated with an undefeated tournament showing that season.
“That was the first team that had the right chemistry,” Smith said. “In fast-pitch, you’ve got to have a lot of experience. It took us years to get that all put together. We were always missing something. We would have a good team with no pitching, or we’d have the pitching and be missing the rest of it. For whatever reason, it just clicked all together that year.”
After his Merchants career ended, Smith took several years off before joining a fast-pitch team based in Herscher. There, he played with his son, current Morris Daily Herald sports editor T.G. Smith. In 1992, the Herscher team placed at a national tournament held in Minot, N.D.
Allen Smith temporarily stopped playing softball again in the mid-1990s, but he returned to the sport shortly after his Florida move and has been playing ever since.
“Basically I was just looking for something to do. I was retired and looking to get out of the house,” Smith said. “I’m pretty good at it, I guess, and I enjoy doing it. I’m healthy enough to do it. I have a competitive edge, and at this level, everybody’s competitive, so I like that.”
Smith says that teams he has been a part of since moving to Florida have won a total of eight to 10 national tournaments. He says he has been named to All-Tournament teams around the same number of times. These days, Smith is primarily an outfielder, for a very practical reason.
“I’m one of the guys who can still run,” he said.