The Philadelphia Zoo softball team plays in the Center City Softball League (CCSL) : a ten-team, co-ed, slow-pitch league where every team must have at least two female fielders. Teams can field up to 10 players (4 in the outfield) total while 12 can bat. Our games have seven innings, no stolen bases (or leading off) and no umpires, though umps are regularly used in the playoffs (captains from teams not in the post-season). The batting team fields 1st and 3rd base coaches who call fair/foul and safe/out. We use pitching mats that facilitate called strikes (if the ball lands on the mat placed behind the plate); you can also (naturally) strike out swinging. There are NO walks. We have ten teams but we play a 14-game season in which every team's schedule is slightly different and weighted on a sliding scale according to their place in the previous year's standings (now in its second iteration). This means last year's 1st place team plays the "toughest" schedule while the last place team plays the "easiest", and every team does NOT play every team twice. Yet... we're all in the same, single division. Yeah. Also now in its second go-round, every team gets a "post-season" game, with the lowest 4 seeds playing themselves into the last two spots of an 8-team playoff, with the top 2 teams advancing to a best-of-three 'world series'. We play in lovely Fairmount Park in northwest Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Zoo - this is our team.
The Franklin Institute - some really nice folks! And at least they actually work there. They've had some rough seasons, but keep getting better. We have recently usually beaten them, but they are becoming a tougher and tougher out. They have fun, for sure.
Catahoula - these "refugees" (what?) are former members of Franklin who are now their own team (since 2012), and apparently most/all of them never did work at Franklin Institute. Won the league in their first official year and again in '13 (while winning every game, going a perfect 21-0!) AND '14 (even after finishing 2nd (what?!) in the regular season. And they're the real reason Franklin won 5 straight titles before that.
The Honey Badgers - The former Green Tambourine team imploded after their 2nd season last year, but I thought they were getting better. Pretty nice folks. Formerly the Please Touch Museum (for a few years) and then added some punch from the Barnes Foundation, and now the leftovers have re-formed with reinforcements... We haven't lost to them in a couple years, but it ain't been easy. I don't know many of them, but frankly, I hope they're horrible.
Philadelphia Art Museum - joined in 2005, took a while to get good and then made the playoffs 4 straight years while threatening for the best record in the regular season. A few years ago they lost some key players and didn't play so well, but with a mid-seeded schedule last year, they placed 3rd - just ahead of us. Sometimes we play them tight and sometimes very much not. Some seriously over-macho dudes. My goal is to beat them by 50 every time we play.
Pen & Pencil Club - the former Daily News (P&P is a press club/bar). We used to split games with them most of the time, except for lately as they've improved a lot and kept beating us, and we have also finished directly behind them for the last playoff spot a few times. We played them super tight two seasons ago when they finished in 2nd and last year we finally beat them again, barely, and it took awhile to settle. Mostly really nice people.
South Philly Tap Room - in the playoffs every year, league champs for three years straight from 2002-2004, runners-up 3 of the following 5 years and finally champs again in 2011. They don't always kill us, but they're the only team we've never beaten. Last year we came really close, again (again). Somehow they keep losing key people and really dropped off the last half of last season. Maybe we can actually beat them? If not, we're in for a long year.
Bishop's Collar - the former PBJ is consistently a good team. We've only beaten them three times, ever, including once each of the last two seasons, though they got revenge and nipped us in our playoff loss. We've almost beaten them a dozen other times and seem to play them tight even when we're having a bad year. Probably the nicest folks in the league.
South Philly Nomads - the former Fleisher is somewhat of an offshoot of the Art Museum and back for their 5th season in the league. We've had some repetitive, shady safe/fair calls from their base coaches and they have some dudes who don't really understand the meaning of "sportsmanship". Just saying. They have a new captain this year, perhaps that will help. A few of them, I really like! But I want to destroy them in softball games. Somehow they managed to win the league last year (we lost to them twice, but barely) and look to be good again this year, but they'll have a much tougher schedule.
National Constitution Center - a few years ago they were called Old City and we were told they were some kind of conglomeration of National Constitution Center people with Alfreth's Alley and some other old city touristy/historical places... they reverted back to just NCC again a couple years ago. New in 2012 after being in the league before (and ousting themselves), they started rough but have steadily improved. We split games with them last year due to many reasons, but thanks to some unsporting-like comments from some of their people over the last couple years, I hope to crush them.
We managed to crack the top 5 last year just as I said we could, but we definitely were helped up there by the weighted (friendly) schedule. Those same parameters will test our team this year with a much harder schedule, which I am sure has enticed others into foretelling a fall in the standings for us. I think we've improved defensively, but we lost some key offensive weapons and we might struggle to score some runs. We haven't had this much turnover in a few seasons, and the book is out on our newcomers. If they can step up and be productive, I think we'll be solid. I can see us going anywhere from 3-10 to 9-4, though, so who knows. Everybody's getting better. We begin and end with Art Museum; it'll be interesting!