Team Zoo 2006 - 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 last year for the first time (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 3 seasons ago (splitting 2 games) and destroyed them 2 years ago in both games, but they've rebounded well and made the playoffs last season and barely missed finishing third when they lost to us twice by one run each. 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 were suprisingly beaten soundly by them in our only game 2 seasons ago, but last year we beat them in our only game (the other was forfeited by them due to being short players). They seemed to be having trouble keeping a team together last year and have been joined by new blood from another organization this season. Still, they weren't far off from making a playoff run. We usually play them closely, so we'll see how the new recruits do for them.
Philadelphia Daily News - they won the tourney in our first year and reached the finals the next, but became somewhat mediocre after that (we split games with them both 3 years ago and last season) - 2 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 last year. Mostly really nice people, also.
X-Commerce Department - they've been called "X-Commerce" now for whatever reason for a couple years... apparently they mostly used to work for the city but don't anymore? It's not really clear. They're always good. In the playoffs every year, and league champs for three years straight until last year. 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 last game last year.
Philadelphia Business Journal - PBJ is consistently good. 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 until last season. We've never beaten them, and it was never even close until 2 years ago, but last season they barely beat us - twice by one run (including the semi-finals). 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 both the Red Cross and Jewish Federation of Philadelphia came to their aid late last year. Now, they join forces together again this season as one team.
Philadelphia Art Museum - another new team that joined last season, 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 bit obnoxious. We split games with them last year and I'd bet they're thinking they've got the playoffs in the bag this year.

We finally proved to everyone and ourselves that we have a solid team. Last year 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 last year was the best it's ever been. We have a solid group of returning players, plus a few new ones. We've suffered one huge loss, though: Ken Pelletier, future Team Zoo Hall of Famer, has retired - along with his 11 pitching starts, 3 game-winning RBIs, 6 home runs, .820 batting average - and that was just last season! His will be large shoes to fill, but we're hoping a good solid team defense and smart hitting can keep us up in the win column. Right on. Plus, we got new uniforms!

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. 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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