Softball dads make lifetime friendships, disband team of 30 years

These are the Leff’s Pioneers.  

"We got Rusty out there, we've got Scootman, we've got Brock, we've got Z or Z Force, and there's Big Jim popping the ball right now," said Bob Frank, otherwise known as Yount on the team. "That's a part of softball. You can't play softball without having a nickname."

For the last 30 years, this group of about a dozen dads and a few of their sons and a nephew, get together to play softball. 

Members of the Hart Park League and sponsored by Leff’s Lucky Town, these Pioneers have been playing together in Wauwatosa since 1991. 

Scott Schuhart, otherwise known as Schuy, started the team with a friend. 

"We all went to Eau Claire, but really didn’t know each other there," said Scott Schuhart, founder of the Leff’s Pioneers. "There were some other people he knew there that played and wanted to play. Word kind of spread."

Fast forward 30 years and seven of these Pioneers have been there since the start, including Bob Frank. He’s known as Yount. 

"You think three decades it would seem like forever, but you just wait for spring to come," said Frank. "You look forward to getting out and playing a little ball and hanging out with your friends."

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When spring does come, each Monday is dedicated to softball.  

"We’re doing good," said Jim Barry, who joined the team a decade ago. "We’ve lost a couple close ones and we’ve also won some pretty convincing wins."

While they admit they aren’t what they used to be on the Field, these Pioneers have been together so long that their kids, who grew up watching them play, are now adults and have joined the team themselves. 

"It’s fun because everyone comes from a different place, but they’ve all been friends for a long time, so you get to meet a bunch of different people and a bunch of different personalities," said Ben Giese, Frank’s nephew on the team. "It’s kind of cool to interact with all these guys and get to know them better."

What once started as just a softball team has turned into much more. 

"I really see the team as kind of like a group of older brothers for me, just that I kind of have seen gone through life a little bit before me, whether it’s from just out of college, through getting engaged, married, children, kids going to college, kind of the ups and downs of life," said Barry. 

"This is a really close-knit group of guys," said Frank. "We're really good friends. It really is like it's a second family."

The group has played around 450 games together, but as time went on, one question always lingered. 

"How long are we going to do this?" asked Schuhart. 

Eventually, all good things must come to an end. 

In their 30th year playing together this season, Schuhart decided they’d finish their run together and finally hang up their gloves. 

"It just seemed like time," said Schuhart. "I think it’s getting a little harder with other things going on." 

This Last Dance is indeed their swan song. 

"It definitely will be a void I mean, that's for sure," said Frank. 

Moving forward, these Mondays will look a little different. 

"Just want to end it on a high note and we’ll miss you know, Monday nights," said Barry. "It’s been very special for a long time."

With their season over this week, these Pioneers know they'll always have each other, and the memories they made on the softball field. 

The good news is they aren't done playing together just yet. 

Their goal is to start up a golf league in the summer of 2022.