Al Benninger is one of the most familiar faces along press row at University of Louisville athletic events, having served as a statistician for UofL basketball and football teams for four decades. What’s less commonly known is that Benninger is a legend in the seniors softball community.
Benninger, 93 years old, had such an impact on the sport that the softball field at Camp Taylor Park was recently named Al Benninger Field. He helped to start the Seniors Softball League as a player and coach in 1990 at the age of 64 before becoming Commissioner for the next 19 years.
Al Benninger Field is located on Poplar Road near the Watterson Expressway.
Along the way Benninger also served as a coach, organizer, statistician and spokesman for the league. The league has grown from four teams in 1990 to 16 teams, largely consisting of players 60 years of age and older. The 60 and over teams compete on Tuesday, and 70 and over squads play on Thursdays during the summer..
Many of the Benninger’s teammates, fans and admirers were on hand for the recent ceremony, including Metro Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Kenny Klein, UofL sports information director, Anthony Williams, of the parks department, and Gary Rodemeier, retired WHAS newsman and a current coach and player in the league.
“I was overwhelmed by all the attention,” said Benninger, who announced his retirement after this season. “I never dreamed they would name the field after me.”
Benninger, who still regularly attends UofL women’s softball games, started playing softball when he was 28 years old. “I thought I would play maybe five years,” he said. “Never did I think I would be playing for 50 more years.”
He especially enjoyed playing and managing in the senior leagues because the league enabled him to meet many new friends and providing great camradery. “Most of my high school buddies are no longer around. It has been a lot of fun and some great memories.”
Equally satisfying was his career as a UofL statistician before retiring in 2006. The UofL stats crew has done the NCAA Final Four every year starting in 1969. “They liked our work and we’ve been doing it every since,” he said.
Benninger may be retiring but don’t be surprised if he is in the stands at the games next summer. He has rarely missed a UofL game since he retired from there, and he will always be welcome at Al Benninger Field.