In professional sports, expansion teams rarely achieve immediate success. The same principle can be applied to the Congressional Softball League, where the OPIC Expropriators have not found the win column in their first five games.
“It’s a building season,” Expropriators captain John Didiuk said. OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corp., is an independent federal agency that fosters U.S.-based investment overseas. Before this year, OPIC had not fielded a team in more than a decade.
When Didiuk moved to Washington from Boston last summer, he knew he wanted to play softball. “I always wanted to play softball on the Mall; I heard so much about the tradition.”
Despite the early results, the team is widely viewed as a success around the OPIC office. A post was placed on the company intranet looking for players, and the response was very positive. Twenty-nine people signed up to play, and the team averages about 25 players at each game.
“It has been a great way to get to know people from other departments,” Didiuk said.
The results on the field have not been as encouraging. Through the first five games of the season, the Expropriators have been outscored 123-39. The most recent loss was a 37-11 drubbing at the hands of the No. 1 team, Raising Arizona.
Games are trending the right way, though. In a May 19 loss to Ten Thousand Men & Women of Harvard, the Expropriators kept the score close, losing 17-14.
In fact, Raising Arizona captain Marty Montorfano was actually nervous going into the game. “It was a classic trap game — the No. 1 team versus the last-place team,” Montorfano said. “Plus, they had been playing some real competitive games.”
Upon closer inspection, it looks as if the Expropriators may not be as bad as their 0-5 record indicates. The team opened the season with a difficult schedule. In just five games, they have played two top 12 teams from 2009 and the No. 1 and No. 4 ranked teams in 2010.
“We are very good at showing up,” joked Shelbi Lucas, pitcher for the Expropriators who has worked in IT at OPIC for more than four years. Lucas played fast-pitch softball at Florida A&M University. “We might be in last place, but everybody shows up and has a good time.”
One aspect hurting the Expropriators is continuity. With so many players, along with a new influx of interns excited to play, the team has yet to establish a regular batting order or positions for players. “We run the gamut of skill levels,” Lucas said. “If you can put on a glove, you get to play.”
“Next year’s interns will require softball experience,” Didiuk added.
There is no immediate relief on the schedule. Next week’s opponent, the Greenbacks from the Treasury Department, are ranked No. 10 and are currently undefeated.
Embodying the perspective necessary to deal with international finance in 2010, Didiuk remains optimistic. “It’s still early. We could turn this around.”
Check back in Around the Hill each week for more softball coverage.