When Herb Price first broke into softball in 1970, the game looked a lot different than it does today. Wooden bats, 275-foot fences, no home run limits and just one division – with all teams playing together.
Price had just graduated from Ball State University and started a job as chief accountant at Community Hospital in Anderson, Indiana. He had played a lot of baseball in his youth and some fast-pitch softball in college, and still had a competitive itch that needed to be scratched. So he started a slow-pitch softball team among his co-workers at the hospital.
“We won the city championship our very first year,” said Price. “I even hit the game-winning walk-off home run. But it didn’t take me very long to figure out that I was better at organizing and coaching than playing, so I began to recruit some better talent.”
The names Anderson Merchants and Anderson Aces were already taken by other teams, so Price settled on the name Anderson Astros for his team.
“It was the Astronaut era, with the NASA Space program kicking up around that time, and I just like the way the name ‘Anderson Astros’ flowed,” said Price. “It had nothing to do with the Houston Astros. The name ‘Astros’ has been included in every team I have had for the past 43 years.”
Price’s partner for the past seven of those years has been co-sponsor Red Moore, who got his nickname from both the color of his hair and an experi¬ence he had in 1963 at the age of 13.
“I earned the right to be a ball boy for the Cincinnati Reds. That year Pete Rose was a rookie and Stan Musial was retiring from baseball,” Moore recalled. “The Reds gave him a rocking chair and a cake, which I helped carry out to him on national TV for his final game in Cincinnati. I lived 25 miles south of there on a farm. That year my older kinfolks and friends asked me to join them in an organized softball league. This is now my 50th year and I have never stopped either playing, coaching or sponsoring.”
Legend has it that Ponce De Leon was in search of Florida in the 16th Century when he stumbled upon the legendary Fountain of Youth. Now, as Price prepares for his 65th birthday in January, he and Moore may have found their own Fountain of Youth in Florida-based Conference USSSA.
Price and Moore are the sponsors of Reds Astros/TPS/Sports Den, a Men’s B team based in Indianapolis. The team is made up of players from the tri-state area of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.
Prior to 2011, the team played almost exclusively in other associations in their own neighborhood and kept feeling unfulfilled. Then, they dabbed their toes in the waters of Conference USSSA for the first time in 2011, playing in Columbus (IN) and Cincinnati and went 3-2 in each of those events. Price had been infatuated with the Great Smoky Mountain Classic since the early 1970s, when the tournament was still in its formative years, and really wanted to play in it in 2012. But due to the enormous popu¬larity and demand for openings, the only way to get in was by joining Conference USSSA.
So, Price and Moore whipped out their checkbook and wrote the $5,000 check to enter the Conference. Price noted there were many years when that amount exceeded the entire annual budget of his teams.
“We had played in a couple of (Conference) tourna¬ments in the past, and we thought we could compete, so we joined,” said Price. “It was a little tough at first (writing the check) but it has been well worth the investment. Conference USSSA far exceeded my expectations. We got nine entry fees paid, free hotel rooms at the B, Conference and Major, plus travel money at the B and Major. That up front entry fee was well worth the investment for us.”
Moore was equally impressed by his first experience in Conference USSSA.
“Playing in the Conference has given us a lot of exposure and I love competition,” said Moore. “As we all know, this is where the very best players in the United State are playing. It is also the most orga¬nized softball I have ever played.”
Due to budget constraints, the Reds Astros/TPS did not play their first Conference event this year until May 11 in Columbus, IN where they tied for fifth place. They followed that up by tying for ninth in Nashville, fifth in Chicago, 13th at the Smoky and fifth in Cincinnati. They needed a strong showing in their sixth and final qualifier at the Last Chance in Detroit to overcome extremely long odds and qualify for the Men’s Major World Series. They went 7-2 (with six of the wins coming in the loser’s bracket after losing their second game) to finish third. That made them one of just four B teams to qualify for the Major World Series, and the only team of any classification to qualify without playing in the Hall of Fame Dual Event to open the season.
Red Astros/TPS never even stepped on an airplane until the Conference USSSA Championships on Labor Day weekend, where they went 5-3 to finish in second place. Then, after tying for seventh at the Men’s B World Tournament, Reds Astros/TPS made a strong fifth place showing at the Major World Series.
The team finished the year with a 40-21 overall record, which included a 13-5 record against fellow B teams and an impressive 12-8 record against A teams. Reds Astros/TPS were 3-0 in matchups against eventual Men’s A world champion R&M Metals/Easton, and were especially proud of a 36-31 win over reigning world champion Resmondo/Worth in Chicago.
“I was amazed how our team responded in our first attempt in Conference play against all those strong teams; we plan on being back in 2013,” said Price.
“Most of our underpaid group of warriors will return for us. Five of our guys received offers many times more than the $50 per weekend we could afford. But it looks like all have opted to stay together to battle the best again. Pretty amazing. These are high-character guys. Some turned down more for playing weekend ball than they make in a week of hard work. Can never thank these guys enough. I wish I could find enough extra sponsor help to do more for them. I will throw in every extra penny I can afford or find to help them.”
While Reds Astros/TPS are new to Conference USSSA, they certainly are not new to softball. In fact, they are primarily a veteran team led by John Steele (48), Tony Henry (46), Randy Lawson (45), Dennis Buis (43), Fred Lawson (42) and Rob Roop (41). Players in their thirties include Steve Kingsolver (38), Doug Martin (38), Brian Farrar (36), Jody Wendel (35), Chris Lane (35), Wally Maybrier (34) and Chad Mullin (31).The remaining players on the team are Justin Aldora, Joshua Bowen, Travis Dale, Ryan Joiner, Troy Krider and Jake Stambazze. Maybrier made the All-Tournament Team at the Major World Series.
Reds Astros/TPS has an equipment contract with Louisville Slugger, where they have a long working relationship with both special consultant Hank Bassett and slow-pitch business manager Dennis Turner.
“I’ve known both Red and Herb for over two decades and they are the same now as they were when I first came to know them – modest, but competi¬tive; a great love and appreciation for the game; a great appreciation for others – sponsors, coaches, players and tournament directors; and a great eye for undervalued and unappreciated talent,” said Bassett. “Sponsors and coaches like Red and Herb are what the game is truly all about. Individuals who are sincere in their support of their players and because of that their teams have a camaraderie and spirit that invariably makes them overachievers.”
Bassett added, “They both also share the fact that they have wives who share their love of the game and support them beyond all that most wives would consider within reason. I consider myself very fortu¬nate to have known, competed against and worked with each of them these many years.”
Turner said team chemistry is what brought Reds Astros/TPS to the forefront.
“This team is a collection of young talent and veterans who care more about the name on the front of their jersey, than the name on the back of their jersey,” said Turner. “A group of scrappy players that never got caught up in who they were playing, just the fact that they were able to play the game and compete against the best. These guys played with more heart and passion than most teams I have seen in a long time.”