Team Zoo 2007 - Philadelphia Zoo Softball

The League

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, with the team taking an automatic out at every top of the batting order as long as they only have one woman in the field. Our games have seven innings, no walks, no stolen bases (or leading off) and no umpires; umps were used in the playoffs the past two seasons (they were coaches from teams not in the post-season). The batting team fields 1st and 3rd base coaches who call foul lines and outs. We have pitching mats that facilitate 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 tough team who used to be great early in our league history but fell down a notch or two a few years ago. We played them close 4 seasons ago (splitting 2 games) and destroyed them 3 years ago in both games, but they've rebounded quite well and won the tournament last year. I'm certain they hate us, and the feeling is mostly mutual.
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 beat them in our only game 2 seasons ago but last year we split games. We usually play them closely.
Pen & Pencil Club - the former Daily News (P&P is a journalism club of some sort), they won the tourney in our first year and reached the finals the next, but became somewhat mediocre after that. Three years ago, when they brought some of their big guns back and made the playoffs again, they beat the crap out of us twice. Even with the big guys back, we handled them fine two seasons ago (splitting games). Last year they beat us soundly both times. Mostly really nice people, also.
South Philly Tap Room - the former "X-Commerce" team now has a bar sponsor. Hooray. They're always good. In the playoffs every year, and league champs for three years straight from 2002-2004. They don't always kill us, but we've never beaten them. They're sometimes kinda jerky and hyper-competitive, but seemed to have calmed down - and we can play with them now, as evidenced by our games against them the last couple of years.
Bishop's Collar - The former PBJ (another bar team?) is consistently good. They ran away with the league in our first year but lost in the series, always make the playoffs but never won the championship until 2005. We finally beat them in our last game of last season, by one, in extra innings (after 12 straight losses to them in 6 years). Probably the nicest folks in the league, though.
National Constitution Center - new to the league in 2005 - made a coaching change 1 week into the season... and got killed pretty much every game, much like us in our first year. I was hoping they'd stick around and try to get better, but it didn't look good until some nice folks at the Red Cross, United Way, and the Jewish Federation of Philadelphia came to their aid two seasons ago. They keep improving, beating us last year once and continue to be 4 organizations under the NCC banner.
Philadelphia Art Museum - another new team that joined in 2005, lost big in their league debut game but steadily improved and got pretty good, with twice as many players as most teams and honestly - a few who were a bit obnoxious. We split games with them each of the past two seasons, most of them being close.

We finally proved to everyone and ourselves that we have a solid team. Two season ago we made the playoffs for the first time, had a winning record for the first time, and narrowly lost to the evenutal champion by ONE lousy run in the semi-finals. If anything, our defense that year was the best it's ever been. Last season we had some new recruits but also a couple of big losses and lost several games by one run, leading to a frustrating 5th place finish (literally about 8 runs from being a playoff team). This year we've suffered some more key losses, but have re-gained a legend (one Ken Pelletier) and also recruited some high quality new folks, so hopefully we can get back up there.

Prior to joining the CCSL, the zoo had regularly played the Academy and Franklin Institute, as well as the Daily News in our annual "Vet Stadium game" (which the zoo's President would arrange). The Vet is long gone, but those were good times. 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 - though we have more guys than usual this year. 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.

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