Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 5/21/12
For Terry Steinbach, playing baseball didn't end when he retired from the major leagues in 1999. The former Minnesota Twins catcher and New Ulm native continued to play the game he loved for more than a decade. It began with town ball for several years, and eventually Steinbach joined a league in Minnesota designed for players 35 years and older. Now 50, however, Steinbach has finally chosen to hang up the cleats and catcher's gear, 26 years after he broke into the majors with Oakland."I'm getting too old," Steinbach said.In reality, there are players in the Minnesota Senior Men's Amateur Baseball Association older than the 50-year-old Steinbach. As he noted, however, none of them spent 14 years as a major league catcher. "I think I've got more miles on than those guys," he said.But his post-MLB career, however, was one filled with many good memories for Steinbach. After playing town ball, he joined the Searles Bullheads in 2005, thanks to the urging of his older brothers Tom and Tim, both of whom also played for Searles.Aside from the age of the competitors, the league has some noticeable differences from what Steinbach was used to in the majors. Perhaps the biggest one aside from the talent level is that hitters begin each at-bat with a 1-1 count, which helps the pace of the seven-inning games and gives the pitchers a bit of an advantage. "I think the adjustment was first of all the 1-1 count," Steinbach said. "I'm like, OK, I'm just going to see what this guy's got. Strike one, OK, now I'm going to step it up a little bit. Strike two, strike three.' It took a little bit of adjusting to figure that out."Once he made the adjustment, Steinbach quickly learned that the baseball was still baseball in this league. He was still able to enjoy the game and at a competitive level, even if some of the participants were in their 60's. Steinbach may not have been facing Cy Young-caliber pitchers or trying to hit the ball past Glove Glove-winning shortstops, but the competitive nature and tenacity of each player was still at a high level."Is it going to be too competitive? Is it too serious? Are guys trying to take you out at second turning two or trying to run you over as a catcher?" Steinbach wondered when first asked to join the league. "I had a little bit of reservations about it. Once I played a couple games, I found out it couldn't be further from the truth. It's still a bunch of men who still have an extreme passion for baseball, even though their abilities are receding."Steinbach includes himself in the group whose abilities may not be what they once were. Even though he appeared in three All-Star games with Oakland and retired from professional baseball with a career .271 average, Steinbach was eventually playing against opponents 10 to 15 years younger than him in the MSMABA."He was definitely in the upper echelon," said Searles manager John Giefer. "The last thing he wanted to do was come out and go 4-for-4 and draw a lot of attention. But don't get me wrong. In the bottom of the seventh, if we needed that winning run, he wanted to do that, just like any of us."While Steinbach spent his entire 14-year career as a catcher save for 50 career games at first base playing in the senior men's league allowed him to play another position. Along with catching, Steinbach also pitched for the Bullheads, and he did so quite effectively."That was probably his biggest joy was that he got to pitch," Giefer said. "One of the neat things, I thought, was he certainly wasn't overpowering, but (he had) pinpoint control. He threw where he wanted to throw the ball."The hometown boy drew crowds wherever the Bullheads would play. Knowing that Steinbach was on the team, and given his pedigree, fans came out to watch Steinbach. Many would also approach him after games with tips, or his opponents many of whom have younger children would even ask for autographs.Steinbach took it all in stride."You see so many kids and so many dads who act like kids, quite honestly, when they get to play against Terry Steinbach," Giefer said. "Terry was just your average run-of-the-mill neighbor who would talk to you about farming and gardening and everything elseNow, after seven years in the 35-and-older league, a few more in town ball, 14 seasons with the A's and Twins and several more at the University of Minnesota, Steinbach has decided to call it quits. With his playing days over, Steinbach is helping coach his youngest son's team. Jake Steinbach is a senior catcher on the Wayzata High School baseball team, where his dad serves as an assistant varsity coach.If Giefer can't talk him out of retirement, Steinbach said he'd like to continue coaching."It's something I enjoy," he said. "It's fun being out there, working with the kids, being able to give back to the kids and educating and helping them out with teaching them stuff that I learned that maybe they can apply."Steinbach retired from the majors with a World Series ring after winning it all with Oakland in 1989. He won several state championships with the Bullheads.The two may not quite compare, but Steinbach still looks back at his time in the senior men's league with fond memories."I went in there with reservations and came out of there with just a great experience. I would really recommend it to anybody who still wants to play or has that feeling about playing. It's definitely a lot of fun and it's still competitive."Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter
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