Ode to the beer leagues: The case for congressional softball

With all its pomp and circumstance, Tuesday night’s All-Star Game got us to thinking about the many minute differences between Major League Baseball and its distant cousins, be they amateur or low-level pro leagues.

We thought of little things like umpires. In the bigs you have four on the field at all times, six in the playoffs.

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Low-A affiliates employ a two-man crew. And going way, way farther down the family tree, you get to the congressional softball leagues, where you’ll find only an honor system by which base coaches determine safe or out — for their own runners.

Yes, it’s all pretty low-rent down Capitol way: no phone in the dugout for calls to the ’pen, no flashy banner ads on the backstop. Actually, come to think of it, no dugout, bullpen or backstop at all. To reserve a field (read: a corner patch of grass on the Mall), lawmakers’ teams send a staffer (read: an intern) over in the mid-afternoon to shoo away would-be Ultimate Frisbee-ers and hold down the fort until it’s time to play ball.

All of that notwithstanding, we came up with a handful of ways in which congressional softball is actually the superior sport. For example …

The team names don’t suck

Let’s face it: Major League nicknames are boring. In the minors you get all manner of cool cognomens — the Batavia Muckdogs and Toledo Mud Hens come to mind — but if a big-league club is named after an animal, it’s more likely to be a state bird. Real intimidating. And don’t even get us started on the Red or White Sox, those orthographically wacky homages to hosiery …

None of that stilted staidness here. Congressional sides’ monikers combine regional distinctions and inside-the-Beltway argot with the most deliciously awful of puns, yielding names like the Bayh Partisans and the Hoosier Daddies. Top honors go to the Chosen Ones (the team of appointed Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del.) and the Judeo-Cuban Missile Crisis (a squad of aides to Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both D-N.J.).

These guys score a boatload of runs

There are no Tim Lincecums or Roy Halladays in the congressional divisions. Especially in the Senate Softball League, contests are never pitchers’ duels — take a look at a listing of recent tallies and you’ll find nary a single digit among them.

Which, paradoxically, puts a premium on defense. In the majors the key to the game is the crooked number; here it’s the opposite. Hold your opposition to a goose-egg in a couple of half-innings, and you’re likely to come out the victor.

Thus the reasoning for our recent selections for Player of the Week. Sure, the Prairie Populists’ Evan Peterson and the Blue Collars’ Jonas Singer might blast tape-measure shots and rack up the ribbies, but they’re also the place fly balls go to die. It all adds up to great spectacle — without the fine leatherwork relegated to second billing.


PEDs aren’t a problem

With the exceptions of dancing, Jell-O wrestling and possibly bowling, there is no physically demanding activity people are better at drunk. So while Major League Baseball grapples with the scourge of performance-enhancing drugs, the congressional softball leagues are removing all suspicion by partaking of performance-diminishing drink.

This is a perk we bet even big-leaguers would find themselves envious of. Think the Nats wouldn’t love to be able to chug a beer when they reach base (being as they’re likely not going anywhere anyway)?

As one staffer put it to us, “Out of the office after a long day, under the sun, playing ball, a cold brew — ain’t nothin’ better than that.”

Amen. Just don’t tell David Wells.

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