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 who 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 are now regularly used in the playoffs (captains 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 - now three-time defending champs. We don't like them very much, and that's not because they beat the snot out of us the last few years. We've certainly taken it to them back when they were not a strong team. Some of their players are outrageously obnoxious.
The Academy of Natural Sciences - they joined the league the same year as us and have never been a great team (like us) but they did make the playoffs the first 2 years. We usually play them closely, though the last couple of years have been pretty down for them and we've beaten them handily. Some fairly nice folks, though.
Pen & Pencil Club - the former Daily News (P&P is a press club of some sort), they won the tourney in our first year and reached the finals the next, but have just been OK since then. We split games with them the last two seasons and have finished directly behind them for the last playoff for two of the past three. We must beat them if we are to have a chance of making the post-season. Mostly really nice people, also.
South Philly Tap Room - the former "X-Commerce" team is 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 yet to ever beat them. They're sometimes kinda jerky and hyper-competitive, but seemed to have calmed down a bit in recent years.
Bishop's Collar - the former PBJ is consistently a good team. They ran away with the league in our first year but lost in the series, always make the playoffs but have only one championship, in 2005. We've only beaten them once, by one, in extra innings in 2006 (after 12 straight losses to them in 6 years). Probably the nicest folks in the league, though.
Please Touch Museum - new to the league this season, replacing the departing National Constitution Center (by league commissioner unilateral decision) and formed by a former player from Art Museum. We'll see if they're any good but we're sure hoping they're not. NCC was usually one or two guaranteed wins for us.
Philadelphia Art Museum - another newer 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 couple who were a bit asshole-ish (who have since left the team). Most of our games are tight and we've never swept the season series, and in fact they swept us last season in a couple of close games. Like P&P, we have no chance of the playoffs if we can't beat Art Museum.
Last season we had a very hard time with injuries, which took its toll late in the season. At one time or another we had at least four different players miss games due to injury. We initially played through the adversity and had a nice little win streak to get back to .500 with only 4 games remaining. We haven't been that close to a winning season (and in the last playoff spot!) that late in the year in some time. But we lost our fire, hit the wall and lost our last 4 straight games (in 9 days) to finish in 6th place. We had a bunch of rookies join the Team Zoo ranks last year and attendance was much less of a problem than in past seasons. It looks like everybody's back and we're looking forward to good things in 2009.
Prior to joining the CCSL, we 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; we used to have a much more even ratio, and even though we've had more men than women recently we still try to make sure everybody gets their share of playing time regardless of their gender. We're an equal opportunity recreational softball team.