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 - two-time defending champs. We don't like them very much, and that's not because they beat the snot out of us the last couple of years. We've certainly taken it to them back when they were not a strong team. Some of their players are really 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 last year they were winless the entire season, and we felt their pain (that happened to us in season 1). Some pretty nice folks.
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 have just been OK since then. We split games with them last year and have finished directly behind them for the last playoff spot the last two seasons. 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 never beaten 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 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'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.
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 a few seasons ago. They keep improving, splitting games with us the past two years 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 (who have since left the team). Most of our games are really close, and we've never swept the season series (won our only game with them last year).
Last season we struggled with attendance and had to forfeit one game because of it; we made an extra effort to recruit some new players in the off-season and it's paid off. We should be good to go all year. Plus, the new folks we picked up last year have mostly returned and are all very solid additions to our team. We've been on the brink of the post-season the past couple of years but need to find a way to get over the hump.
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.