Thirty-nine year old Jed King arrived in the seventh inning of last Thursday night's baseball game with two kids in tow. Minutes later, King stepped to the plate and hit a single up the middle.
That might seem odd but it's not that uncommon in the Quad County Optimist League.
King, a 1999 Solanco graduate who teaches and coaches at Octorara High, plays for the Quarryville squad in the semi-pro wooden bat league.
Many players in the league juggle a host of responsibilities including a career and family while trying to find the time to keep playing the game they love.
"We probably have seven guys over 35," said King, the second oldest player on the team – a year younger than his cousin Zack King. "Then we have a young group on the team. It's a mentoring process. When guys come in, we try to make them feel accepted and then loved here and they just stay. So we don't lose players. We just get bigger and bigger. I coach football. I'm a high school teacher. Everybody has families. We're going to kids' baseball games and softball games. We're doing all that in the midst of a season."
It's as much about camaraderie as it is about competition.
"This league is like a fraternity for baseball," Quarryville player/manager Brian Tercha says.
"I've played baseball since I was six years old and there's not a group of guys I would rather play with than this team," Jed King said.
It's also about family. Both King and Tercha have three children.
Tercha estimates members of the team have a total of 15 children.
"We always joke that all of our kids are going to grow up and play with us on this team," said King. "My kids come and run the bases and slide into home after every game. You see guys throwing batting practice to their kids after games. It's a family culture and I think that's why we're successful. We care about each other. We all want to see everybody succeed. There's never anybody putting anybody down. I've never heard a negative word. Now, we get mad at ourselves when we lose, but we're competitive and that's the nature of the beast. These guys are class acts, through and through. We've got some really good players. Our shortstop Ben Miller has been ripping the ball. Plays a great shortstop. He's really talented, probably the most talented shortstop I've ever played with in my life. Ben Thomas is hitting the ball real well."
There was no storybook ending for King and Quarryville (4-0-1) Thursday night. He did not score the winning run after his hit and the game against Smitty's Cardinals ended in a 1-1 tie when it was halted by darkness in the eighth inning.
"This team has been playing together for a long time," King said. "I've been in this league probably 15 years. A lot of these guys have been in it for over 10. When we come together and jell, we play well. Tonight wasn't our best performance. I didn't even get to see it but I know because it was a tie game when I got here."
Quarryville had taken the lead in the fourth when Zac Leonard doubled and scored on a throwing error. Smitty's Cardinals tied it in the sixth.
Quarryville's roster is filled with players who starred in high school. Many more had college baseball careers. Josh Squatrito, Chris Powl, and Tad Barton previously played professionally.
"There's a lot of baseball knowledge here," Tercha said. Two Quarryville players are currently coaching as high school assistants. Matt Carta missed Thursday night's game because he's a pitching coach at Lampeter-Strasburg and the Pioneers had a state tournament game.
Matt Rayha joined the Quarryville team for Thursday's game after his Hempfield squad was eliminated three days earlier.
"It was like alright, I'll be at the next game," said Rayha. "It's been 11 months since I've had an at bat or anything."
Rayha, a teacher at Penn Manor, coached two Smitty's Cardinals players at Hempfield. "I've been on this team for 10 years and I'm at the point where I'm playing against players I've coached," he said.
Most of the Quarryville players only play competitive baseball during the Quad County season. They do not have practices.
"We have to make sure we're at games and that's about as much as these guys can handle because of their careers and kids and everything," said Tercha.
"With the exception of a few guys who are in college, most of these guys are working professionals so they balance their careers with doing this because they're all baseball players."
Tercha, a 1999 Solanco graduate, has been playing in the league since 2000. He has been running this franchise since it was in Lampeter in 2008.
Tercha moved the team to Quarryville the following season and has guided the squad to league titles in 2013 and 2017. There are no league boundaries, but Tercha says half of his team graduated from Solanco.
The Quarryville roster: Tad Barton, Matt Carta, Grant Gale, Jeremy Hess, Tag Hess, Josh Howells, Tanner Kennedy, Jed King, Zack King, Zac Leonard, Ben Miller, Joe Murray, Brandon Nickel, Chris Powl, Matt Rayha, Jimmy Spanos, Josh Squatrito, Brian Tercha, Ben Thomas, Chase Thomas, Brady Thomas, and T.J. Wolle.
Formerly known as the Lancaster-Lebanon Twilight League, the Quad County Optimist League is made up of seven teams primarily from Lancaster County and the Reading area.
"We're trying to build it up," Jed King said. "We want more teams in the league. People love baseball. It's hard to find local baseball for adults. We're trying to get this thing built up again and get Lancaster County playing ball. We've got high school kids that come out and play in this league. It's kind of like a mentoring process. Us older guys are all about seeing the younger guys succeed and continue with their careers. We've got guys playing in college that we encourage. We want to see them succeed more than we want to see us succeed. That's the mentality of our team."