At first glance, a recent gathering in a Senate conference room looked like any other meeting, with staffers decked out in dark suits mingling about and thumbing through folders.
But on closer inspection, the folders contained softball information. And unlike the usual Senate meeting, more than a few beer cans were spotted in the crowd. It was the official beginning of the 2010 Senate Softball League season.
The conference room was filled with the buzz of excitement that a new season brings.
“We are looking forward to another great summer,” said Bill Christian, coach of the RBIs of Texas, a team that was a division winner last year and perennially makes it to the playoffs.
The 2009 runner-up, Hawk ‘n’ Dove, is ready to renew its rivalry with defending champion Well Swung. Hawk ‘n’ Dove was the only team to beat Well Swung in the last two years.
“We’ll give it our best shot,” said Michael Carr, coach of the Hawk ‘n’ Dove team. “There’s a two-time champ that needs to be knocked off.”
For Allison Sparks, a first-year captain of Never Say Di, this year represents a new chance. The team representing the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) suffered a lopsided defeat last year in the second round of the tournament to Well Swung. Sparks is hoping for a different outcome this year but knows the team will have fun in any event.
Teams are placed into divisions at random, so some natural rivalries are only played as scrimmages. Kellis Moss of the Mississippi Mudcats explained that his team will schedule scrimmages against the Tennessee and Alabama delegation teams.
Many new teams are joining the league this year, including a team from the office of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). The Great Scotts, coached by Colin Reed, are enthusiastic about their inaugural year in the league. Reed is particularly excited for a July 19 scrimmage against the Green Monsters, the team from the office of Democratic Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.
“The turnout of new teams is quite impressive,” said Carr, who has been involved in the league for more than a decade. Coaches of new teams were asked to stay after the meeting for a brief tutorial. The purpose of the tutorial was not to give actual softball instruction, Commissioner Sonja Hoover explained, but to offer an outline for how the league works.
For the seasoned teams, there was little new material to cover. A rule change was instituted regarding walks in the tournament, while the date for the tournament remains in flux. The two proposed dates each carry significance: the first is Sept. 11 and the second is Sept. 18, which is Yom Kippur.
“We are still working it out,” Hoover said. “We are trying to be sensitive.”
The meeting also allowed the coaches the opportunity to schedule games and scrimmages. The league contains eight divisions, each with at least nine teams. Each team plays each division member once, with the top four from each division going to the playoffs.
Check back in Around the Hill each Wednesday for more softball coverage.
Correction: May 12, 2010
This article misidentified the commissioner of the Senate Softball League. Her name is Sonja Hoover.