Steve Lutz says that his older brother, Dave, has played baseball "almost non stop" since the days when Dave was Morris Community High School's top hitter.
Dave Lutz graduated from MCHS in 1977. Thirty-five years later, he is still playing hardball in Florida, where he moved in 1983. For the past few years, he has been an outfielder for the Americans Baseball Club, which plays regularly on Florida's Space Coast.
Each year, the Americans enter the Roy Hobbs World Series, held annually in October and November in Fort Myers, Fla. Lutz was part of an Americans team which won the Masters Division (48-and-over) Class AAA championship at the 2011 World Series. Lutz batted .381 in 21 World Series at-bats and sparked an extra-innings rally during the penultimate game of the double-elimination tournament.
"It was 2-1, we were winning, going into the ninth and the other team tied it up, 2-2," Lutz said. "Then in the 10th inning, I led off with a double into the gap in right-center. We ended up scoring four runs and winning 6-2."
Several members of the Americans and the clubs they play against are former professional or semipro players. Lutz did not make it to affiliated ball like some of his peers, though he has played baseball for much of his life. Growing up in Morris, he says he "pretty much lived" at local ballfields.
Lutz initially played some infield, though he was a full-time outfielder by the time he got to MCHS. There, he was named MVP of his team as an underclassman and was a full-time varsity starter by his junior year. He batted over .400 as a senior.
"He was always just far enough ahead of me that we were never on the same team," Steve Lutz said. "All through high school, he always played baseball and did really well."
Before leaving Morris, Dave Lutz began playing competitive softball, something he continued to do down south. He got back into baseball in the late 1980s.
"I started playing hardball down here in '87 because a buddy was playing on a team over in Auburn," Lutz said. I was playing with them for just a couple of years until the team dissolved."
The dissolution of his team forced Lutz to take what he calls a "big break" from baseball. He wanted to join the Americans, but did not really know anyone on the team and thus never had an opening. He had latched on with another team for a few years when he finally got his chance with the Americans in 2007, when he was 48 years old.
"They needed outfielders. They wanted me to come to a tryout," Lutz said. "My buddy (Americans member Steve LaRussa) knew I could play the outfield and could still run. That's a big thing, they want to make sure your legs are still in good shape. I knew I could still catch the ball."
One sliding catch during the tryout made an impression on those observing Lutz.
"After I made that catch ... the coach had a party afterward, and he came right out and said, 'You're on the team,'" Lutz said. "I got my three uniforms, and the rest is history. I've been playing for them ever since."
The Americans play almost year-round. Lutz says that they play a spring season from February until the middle of April, a summer season that follows the spring and lasts into August and a fall season that can extend into December. Typically they may play one or two games per week against competition from towns like Melbourne and Coco Beach.
The World Series keeps the Americans busier. According to Lutz, they arrive in Fort Myers on a Saturday. Teams then usually play two games on Sunday and one on both Monday and Tuesday to determine which class they will be placed in. The double-elimination tournament begins on Thursday and lasts through Saturday.
Though the 2011 Masters Division champion is the only one which Lutz has been a part of, the Americans have won other World Series titles through the years. The club also fielded a team which won the Veterans Division (38-and-under) Class AAA title in 2011.
"We pretty much expect to win every year," Lutz said.
Steve Lutz and his wife, Paula, happened to take a trip to Florida to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary a few years ago. They did not know it when the planned the trip, but it coincided with the World Series, and they were able to take in a few of Dave's games.
"He's a hitter," Steve Lutz said. " He loves to play the field, too. He's a good outfielder. He goes after pretty much everything out there. Even still, he's not afraid to go after the hard ones. He's a very intense hitter, just really consistent. It was good to watch him. It's fun to watch. He gets pretty into it."
Dave Lutz expects to give people on the Space Coast the chance to watch him play for the next several years. He hopes to suit up for the Americans in both the Masters Division and the Legends Division (55-and-older) at the 2012 World Series. He is not yet technically old enough for the latter class, but age rules are often relaxed, he says, for non-pitchers.
"I plan to do it as long as I can, at least another four or five years," Lutz said. "There are guys on our team who are 61 and 62 years old who are still playing and doing fine."