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Congressional Softball League Comes Out Swinging

Annual League’s 33rd Season Gets Under Way This Month

Evenings in the nation’s capital are about to get more competitive.

The 33rd annual season of the Congressional Softball League is in full swing, with about 150 teams competing to land in the league’s 64-team tournament later this summer.

“I can’t think of anything better than playing when the Washington Monument is to your back and the White House is to your front,” said Gary Caruso, a league veteran who, when not fielding the ball, serves as league commissioner. “If you have a couple of bases and a ball and a bat, you’re good to go.”

Made up of groups as varied as Congressional staffers, lobbyists and media personnel (even Roll Call fields a squad), teams typically play between 10 and 30 games a year, which they must schedule themselves.

Teams are ranked using a computerized scoring system. Points are

awarded or deducted depending on the result of the game, an opposing team’s ranking and whether the game was a forfeit.

League rules also state that teams must have at least eight players, three of them women.

“There are some traditional teams that are good, and some good ones coming up,” Caruso said. “It’s always fairly easy to put a team together.”

Teams play games on various fields around the Washington, D.C., area. Construction on the National Mall has made it difficult for some teams to find places to hold games, however, so many play at area parks and schools, Caruso said.

A typical highlight of the tournament are rivalries, some which form during the summer and others who continue from season to season.

“You do have some traditional rivalries that have to be played every year,” Caruso said. “The DNC and the RNC always play each other every year, and that’s always a biggie.”

Last year’s tournament champions, The Resolutionaries, will return this year to defend their title. The team, sponsored by the nonprofit group Search for Common Ground, faces stiff competition from many old-time favorites, including 2002 Champions Denny’s Grand Slam, players from the office of Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and Suspension of the Rules, who won the title in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

“We’ve had a lot of groups challenge us this year,” said Phil Bob Hellmich, manager of the Resolutionaries and the director of Sub-Saharan development in Africa for Search for Common Ground.

“The IRS wants another crack at us,” he said, referring to the team that the Resolutionaries beat in the championship game last year. “The Bush/Cheney re-election group came after us … We want to put out a standing challenge to the Nader and the Kerry re-election campaigns so we can keep with our common ground approach.

“Our mission statement is to transform the way the world deals with conflict away from adversarial approaches. But for the softball team, we practice a win-win approach where we win, win again and keep on winning.”

“But we do this all with a very positive attitude,” Hellmich assured. “We’ll be the nicest team that’ll ever beat you.”

Typically, the end-of-the-year tournament features an array of groups, from those who play for the love of the game to those play for the love of winning the game, Caruso said. The tournament, which will mark its 26th year in October, is always competitive and often unpredictable, he added.

“We don’t make the very best teams play the very worst teams in the first round, so teams that just do play for fun don’t get bounced right away,” Caruso said. “You’ll get a lot of teams that just play for the fun of it.”

John McArdle contributed to this report.

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