The Philadelphia Zoo softball team plays in the Center City Softball League (CCSL) : an eight-team, co-ed, slow-pitch league where every team must have at least two female players. Teams can field up to 10 players (4 in the OF) total while 11 can bat - a team does not need to forfeit at game time if it has at least 8 players (the opposing team would field a catcher as the 9th player whom cannot make plays on the ball) with one of them being female (when the second woman would be up, there is then an automatic out). Our games have seven innings, no walks, no stolen bases (or leading off) and no umpires. The batting team fields 1st and 3rd base coaches who call foul lines and outs. We have pitching mats which are new this year, so theoretically there are now called strikes (if the ball lands on the mat placed behind the plate); you can also strike out swinging. We play a fourteen-game season in which every team plays each other twice, with one game each being home and away. The top four teams advance to a single game playoff round where the winners meet in a best-of-three 'World Series'. We play in lovely Fairmount Park in northwest Philadelphia.
This year's teams :
The Franklin Institute - a solid team who used to be great a few years ago but really fell off 2 seasons ago and then rebounded a bit last year. We used to get creamed by them but now we can play with these guys. Last year we beat each other once each by 1 run.
The Academy of Natural Sciences - they joined the league the same year as us, never a great team but they did make the playoffs the first 2 years. We also split games with them by 1 run in each game last year.
Philadelphia Daily News - they won the tourney in our first year and reached the finals the next, but fell off quite a bit last year in which we beat them twice (by one run each). They lost some of their big guns who apparently went off to play in a more competitive league.
X-Commerce Department - Last year the Commerce Dept. was called "X-Commerce" which was never really explained... apparently they mostly used to work for the city but don't anymore? It's not really clear - all I know is that they're still being called X-Commerce so this year I'll capitulate and go with that, too. They're always good. In the playoffs every year, and league champs the last two years. They don't always kill us, but we've never beaten them. And they've got "The Mouth" - the league's most annoying infielder.
Philadelphia Business Journal - PBJ is consistently great. They ran away with the league in our first year but lost in the series, always make the playoffs but haven't won the championship since we've been around. They've never scored LESS than 22 runs on us and we've never beaten them, either. Nice folks, though.
Recovery Room Tavern - formerly known as the Board of Education (I guess they have an appropriate sponser now?), just their second year in the league this year, and they're tough. We played with them sorta well last year but we've never beaten them in the 3 times we've played. They made the finals in '03 and are probably going back again this time around.
Project H.O.M.E. - this is the 2004 newbie team, and so far they look a lot like us in our first year. I don't know if they'll win a game. But they seem to like playing and don't give up, so I wish them well. They do great work for the homeless, so they deserve to at least be competitive. It's great for us that they're in the league, though! They replace the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau team.
We proved we can be competitive in the league the last two years and this year we really think we can make a run for the playoffs. The team hasn't changed much and we keep improving year to year. Prior to joining the CCSL, the zoo had regularly played the Academy and Institute, as well as the Daily News in our annual "Vet Stadium game" (which the zoo's President would arrange). To be honest, most teams in this league play with the bare minimum of female players and some make a point to only do just that; the zoo, on the other hand, has usually had a ratio of about 1:1 with males and females. However, more guys came out for the team last year and that trend continues in 2004. But we're an equal opportunity recreational softball team. We don't really care; if you want to play, you will. It's always more fun when you win but in the end it doesn't mean squat if you're uptight about it.