Like an impersonal, multinational business conglomerate, slow-pitch softball is running its smaller, fast-pitch counterpart out of town.

Once regarded as an old man's pastime, slow-pitch is the game now. And attracting top-quality athletes is one of its most effective means of takeover.

Two prime examples of slow-pitch's allure are former George Mason track star Skeeter Jackson and former University of Maryland baseball player Bob Wykoff.

In February 1984, Jackson was the third-rated long jumper in the country, but a broken foot killed his chance of performing in the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He hopes to qualify for the 1988 Olympic team in the long jump and triple jump, but almost every weekend, the world-class athlete plays slow-pitch softball in Fairfax County.

"One main reason why I play slow pitch is that we don't have any fast-pitch leagues near me {in Stafford, Va.}," Jackson said. "I have a lot of friends in Stafford, guys that play semipro baseball during the week and slow-pitch on the weekends. They just bypass fast-pitch."

In 1980, Wykoff was a 15th-round draft choice of the Boston Red Sox. But the senior catcher tore a rotator cuff, effectively ending any chance at a professional career. Unable to find a fast-pitch league near his home and knowing little about the Guy Mason League -- the major fast-pitch circuit in the metropolitan area -- Wykoff joined the Chazco Van Lines slow-pitch team.

"Slow-pitch is a good release for many people," Wykoff said. "And in the coed leagues, a lot of single people go to meet other singles. It's a very social atmosphere. But at some levels, it's highly competitive.

"The other attractive aspect about slow-pitch is that you can match your talent with the talent of the different leagues, put yourself with people like yourself."

Chazco is perhaps the most successful team in the area. In 1985, it won the Northeastern Region Class C championship. Last year, Chazco participated in the World Championships in Wilson, N.C., but it lost its first two games and was eliminated.

Jackson plays on the B Team (65-13 through last week) in Fairfax County's Metro-2 Division. Its manager, Doug Wheelbarger, believes human nature plays a large role in slow-pitch popularity.

"Fast-pitch is hard work, and most people don't want that," Wheelbarger said. "In slow-pitch, the pitchers and hitters need a day of practice, but in fast-pitch, the pitchers need to throw nine months of the year and hitters need a lot of batting practice.

"Plus, slow-pitch is a great ego trip. Everybody can go out and hit the ball great."

The pitcher dominates fast-pitch softball; hits are rendered scarce by offerings that often exceed 85 mph.

Despite the lack of speed on a pitcher's best stuff, slow-pitch is fast-moving. And with the ball in play so often, all fielders must be alert.

Jackson and Wykoff are correct -- the once-thriving fast-pitch game is becoming scarce.

In slow-pitch, Montgomery has as much diversity as any county in the area with approximately 1,200 organized teams. In addition to recreation department-sponsored leagues, companies, agencies and organizations such as IBM, C&P Telephone, the Defense Mapping Agency and the Jewish-American War Veterans -- to name a few -- have leagues composed of employes and members. And for the best caliber, Olney Manor Park is the place to go. Specifically, the Hal Piercy League has outstanding Class B softball.

Within the ranks of slow-pitch softball, co-recreational leagues are expanding at the fatest rate. There are two divisions in Montgomery County: a regular league with normal softball rules, and a reverse league in which right-handed men must bat left-handed, and vice versa.

Prince George's leagues are under the jurisdiction of one of two governing bodies -- the Amateur Softball Association and the U.S. Slow-pitch Softball Association. The Regina's/Chevy Chase Weasels are the top co-rec team in the county. The defending league champs entered this week at 8-0 in the Monday Night "Competitive League" at Watkins Park in Largo.

The Braddock Road area is the place to be for the best of Fairfax County slow-pitch softball, whether at Braddock Park for the men's Metro-1 League, or at Wakefield Park off Braddock Road for women's games.

The Chazco Van Lines team has dominated Arlington County Division 1 play in recent years, but this year, the Washington Senators, in first place entering this week with a 15-0-1 record, are making it an interesting race. The two will square off in a July 9 doubleheader at Jeannie Dean Park on South Shirlington Road at 6:30 and 7:45 p.m.

Alexandria has perhaps the most complex schedule in the area. It has two seasons: one from April through July and one from August through October. Over the past eight years, First Commonwealth Savings and Loan has won eight of a possible 16 titles.

There is no women's slow-pitch league in Alexandria. It died two years ago when only one team registered to play. Again, the social allure of co-rec softball was the overriding factor.

At Minnie Howard Field on Braddock Road, there was a women's league playing beside a co-rec league. Participants can play either in a one-sex or co-rec league, but not both; thus, when women chose to play co-rec, the all-women's league was expunged.

It was a death caused by circumstances similar to those from which fast-pitch softball suffers.

For those who still prefer the fast-pitch game, there is really only one place in the Washington metropolitan area to see it: Guy Mason field in the District, at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Calvert Street NW.

Teams from Montgomery and Prince George's counties and the District formed the 10-team, fast-pitch league. Guy Mason Field has hosted some of the best fast-pitch teams on the East Coast in recent years. Now Fletcher's Field {on Kenilworth Avenue in Hyattsville} and Wheaton Regional Park host games as well. By expanding play to three sites, officials hope to increase interest.

There also is a women's fast-pitch league, played solely at Guy Mason. The Metros, led by Rita Highbaugh and Maura Ryan, have won three major championships in recent years including an invitational tournament title against teams throughout the East.

The Metros are proof that, although fast-pitch softball may be a declining sport in the area, the teams that still play that version of the game continue to play it well.