Thursday, September 29, 2005

Some bitchin' pitchin'

Lone or Loan? Why it matters!

This is from the website:

Lone Wolves

What happens to dispersing wolves who cannot find a mate and territory? What happens to them if they do not return home? What happens to them if they return home but are rejected by their former pack? They become 'lone' wolves, not living in a pack but surviving on the edge of established wolf pack territories, waiting until conditions improve for them.

Lone wolves keep out of the way of resident packs, they risk being killed by them if they do not, while at the same time try to find enough food to live on. Many dispersing wolves are unsuccessful and simply die - like seeds scattered in the wind falling on stony ground. Lone wolves have low survival rates. In any wolf population some five to twenty percent of wolves are lone wolves.

and this is from the deep dark depths of my soul:

Loan Wolves
What happens to librarians who have too much time on their hands? What happens to them if they feel the need for team bonding, particularly with far flung cross site colleagues? What happens to them if they want the chance to exercise, talk tactics and discuss techniques in the pub? They become 'loan' wolves.

Loan wolves work together as a team, encouraging and supporting each other's attempts to develop and hone their batting, pitching and fielding skills. Even when they lose, they are still a success, and refuse to lie down and die. Loan wolves have a 100% survival (although occassionally suffer the odd injury) In any (cool) library population some five to twenty percent of librarian's are loan wolves.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Team Photo

Vic's post-tourney tale

Vic says :

Manjiv and I decided that the pub in Wood Green was too far away for our tired and cold limbs, so we joined the rest of the tournament players in the local clubhouse round the corner from the park.

The beer was cheap and the other softballers were very friendly and encouraging. A number of the players from the better teams, including the Panthers, came up to us and congratulated us on our efforts. Some of the Panthers admitted feeling sorry for us at first, but told us that we certainly had potential and would get better the more we practiced. I got some good pitching tips whilst waiting to be served at the bar and we heard some great softball injury tales. We spent quite a lot of time chatting to the other development team players and we all agreed to keep in touch and keeping on training together.

The prizes for the 1st and 2nd places in each league were handed out as were the prizes for the winners of the tournament and all-star game. We weren't left out. Each team's MVP got a prize and we collected Kate's award on her behalf. Congratulations!!

I left the club after a few beers feeling tired, tipsy and a little sore but eager to go out there again.

Manjiv's post tourney tale


Somehow I thought I would have gotten softball fever out of my head after the tournament…alas it’s steadily getting worse. I’ve been suffering from “softball withdrawal symptoms” all day yesterday, and despite sore aching muscles did make a brave attempt to go and throw a ball around the park. Unfortunately I had to admit defeat after a mere 2 minutes and return home to my comfy pyjamas and lots of tea…

So Saturday… both Vic and I went down to the clubhouse (great place for cheap beer and surprisingly (!) found ourselves surrounded by a lot of like minded softball enthusiasts). A great cheer for Kate (hip hip hooray) who received an MVP award for our team – she is now the proud owner of a New York Yankees baseball cap – I wonder what Colin will make of it?? Wear it with pride Kate!!

We spent a couple of hours in the company of members of the other development team, got chatting and one thing led to another and we thought it would be a good idea to continue our Monday night practices if possible. Would the wolves be willing to attend practice sessions at regent’s park playing against the development team. I think this may be a good opportunity to not only work on practicing our essential game skills but also improve how we work together as a team? Could I get an idea of interest so I can let the development team know – they are very enthusiastic to do this as well>

Could you also have a look at the link below regarding indoor softball and let me know if firstly, you’d like to be involved in this, and secondly if you’d prefer weekly or bi-weekly sessions?

Finally, could you let me know your late night duties for scheduling purposes?

that’s all from me for now, Manjiv

Tournament - Andy's story

Our team has only been going for about a month, in which time we've attended three or four development sessions run by the Greater London Softball Mixed League. We hadn't played in a real match before yesterday. So this was to be the Loan Wolves' blooding. And not the "Lone Wolves", as we were listed in the tournament schedule. That would just have been a stupid name, rather than our clever library pun. The day started chill but bright, and soon warmed up to be surprisingly hot (certainly felt it on the outfield during our last match). I've been so lucky this year, in that all the outdoors weekend events I've been involved in over the Summer - the bicycle opera in Trafalgar Square, swordfighting display, the treasure hunt and now this tournament - have been blessed with sunny weather. Maybe next year, I'll get rained on from May to September...

We assembled at Finsbury Park cricket and softball pitch, some of us having had to get up very early (why couldn't they have picked a South London venue?). We soon realised that this "development tournament" was being played between teams who were mostly well-established and had been playing in Division Four all last year. The other "dev team" was peppered with experienced players to make up the numbers. We had our "uniform" on - red T shirts and tops. Alarmingly, everyone else seemed to have matching shirts with squad numbers, logos, and even their individual nicknames on the back. I had my grey "Wolves" baseball hat - Wolverhampton Wanderers that is, but the wolf's head logo still fitted. We had several supporters - family, and members of LIS - who turned out to see us play, which was really heartening. There were also a couple of friendly dogs about, baffled by seeing so many balls and sticks, but none being thrown for them. One large, amiable German Shepherd decided to wander onto the pitch for the All-Star game. We considered adopting him as the Wolves' mascot. Some of our players got in an extra game, as two of the other teams were short of women players. The rules are quite strict about having 50-50 male-female teams and field positions - I supose to create fairness in a mixed sport. I didn't play in our first match, as we had 11 players and wanted to give everyone a game. So I was checking the batting line-up and attempting to make sense of the score-sheets and scoring system. I deciphered how the scorecard works, but found it tricky keeping track not just of the current batter but also of up to three runners at once, with any one or more of them potentially getting out during any play. I have a feeling that baseball/softball scoring must appeal to the US sports statistician every bit as much as cricket scoring does to English stattoes.

We had some great moments in the first game against the other development team, scoring runs (including a home-run to captain Richard) and taking catches, but sadly we soon realised the gulf in our experience and that of the opposition. With only a few hours training and zero match experience, we were never going to win the tournament. The second game (and my first) was against the Panthers. I'm afraid that my contribution at 2nd base was pretty poor, certainly in our first fielding innings. However, in the course of this game, we started to come together much better as a team, and our final innings in the field resulted in 2 outs for no runs, two of them coming from improved teamwork between Jane at short stop and myself at second base. The Panthers were Division Four champions this year, and way out of our class. They definitely played for us, giving us chances (and a lot of tips and advice), but again we were not as victorious as we'd have liked.

Game three, against Glove Me Tender, saw us encountering some really big-hitting batters. I was in the outfield as rover, and saw a lot of balls soar over the players at left and centre field. The only time I was at bat, I managed not to get myself struck out, but didn't make it past second base. In this game, for the first time ever, I wore a baseball hat turned backwards - I noticed that I was out in the field with my back to the sun, and my neck was starting to get a bit warm. Is this the start of the slippery slope to Americanisation? We noticed the enthusiastic shouting and catchphrases form the teams playing (many of which had a fair few US players), and the obligatory high-fives and cheers. At the moment, we're still a bit British and reserved by most teams' standards. We couldn't even bring ourselves to do a team howl, despite being called the Wolves. We then had a few drinks and watched our batter Emily fill in again in the "Plate" final. She did well (with the other Wolves as her own personal cheering section), and the Dazzlers won. Don't think they even bought her a beer for her trouble, though.

We then watched the All-Star game between chosen players of the top two divisions, and were really impressed by the throwing and catching skills they brought to the game. Then on to a pub in Wood Green, where we had a bite to eat and another beer, then made our weary ways home (I was so weary, I fell asleep on the Tube - thanks for waking me up at Victoria, Peter). Injuries for the day included Richard's impressively-grazed knee, Alison's wrenched knee, my pulling something in my leg trying to reach third base, and Julian, who stopped a very fast-moving ball and hurt his hand. The first-aiders gave him a bag of ice for it, to stop it swelling. When this melted, he was left with a plastic bag of cold water - "where's the goldfish?" comments abounded. Overall, the day was a real learning experience for us. We saw the difference that practice and experience make, for one thing. We managed to improve throughout the day, but even though we have some very good players (I am most definitely not one of them) we need to train seriously and regularly if we are to be able to compete.

I must say, my team-mates played with real commitment and determination, and no little skill. I am impressed by the courage it must have taken to pitch against teams of seasoned batters, by the hitting which brought our runs, and the fielding which got some very good players out. I think the match experience was definitely worth having, as we now know what we should be aiming for over the WInter if we are to try joining the league in May. One thing that struck me was how much we've all learned about the game, which is quite complicated, already. We sounded quite knowledgeable as we explained it to our supporters. I wonder if, next time I see a baseball movie, it won't all sound like a foreign language.

Be interesting to see how the Loan Wolves have improved by next season, anyway.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Wednesday 21st September

A pack of seven Wolves for tonight’s session. Some more throwing and catching (big improvements all round here I think), featuring several mammoth long-distance moon probes from Ben, guaranteeing him one of the outfield berths for the "tourney" Saturday. We also did some pitching and gentle batting practice in well-drilled groups of three or four players.

Some of us are getting used to the nervous looks from fellow tube- and bus-travellers as they notice the dangerous metal bats sticking out of our bags. They might come in handy if we start doing Library patrols again…

Hey, check out the link opposite (or here?) Softball UK News :our media saturation plans are coming together!

If only they spelt our name right...


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Tuesday 20th September

A small but perfectly formed gathering of four took to the field to practice a few skills. We mainly concentrated on building confidence in throwing and catching, but also took a bit of time to have another go at pitching. (Although it now seems that we measured the distance wrong, so we will have to try and induce muscle forgetfulness for the pitches that went well!) It felt like we really improved over the hour or so we spent practising and if we carry on like this world domination is well within our sights!

Monday 19th September Training Session

A good turn out tonight with a full team compliment of 10 wolves making it to Regent's Park. For a couple of us it was the first session, and a bit of a baptism of fire, as we got into a game more or less straight away. Once again more and more mini and micro rules emerged in the course of the practice, but bit and pieces are gradually sinking in (I hope!).

Emily has already distinguished herself as a bit of a big hitter, and several of us had a go at pitching. Personally, I now see pitching as a kind head to head duel between pitcher and batter - balls versus strikes - who can hold out the longest....or maybe I am taking it all a bit too seriously!

We then followed the session very entertainng pub visit, where we talked tactics, worked out batting orders and considered the nickname possibilities - Fordo, Evesy, Woodsie...being just a few of the more obvious examples. Nothing like a good nickname to intimidate the enemy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Favourite Positions

Jane says:

Here are the field and batting decisions we made at the pub.
Everyone has a first choice and a second choice. Some made
no choice at all on account of not being at the pub. (You see
it pays to drink!)

Remember the first choices are just for the first game of the
tournament and can be changed in subsequent games if we feel
like it! There are 11 people listed so 2 people have 'outfield
somewhere' down as a 'choice'.... And the pitchers of course
will change around within the first game!

ALISON 1st outfield somewhere 2nd 1st base
ANDY 1st centre field (right) 2nd centre field (right)
BEN 1st centre field (left) 2nd short stop
EMILY 1st left field 2nd centre field (left)
JANE 1st 3rd base 2nd left field
JULIAN 1st right field 2nd outfield somewhere
KATE 1st pitcher 2nd 2nd base
MANJIV 1st catcher 2nd 3rd base
PETER 1st 1st base 2nd pitcher
RICHARD 1st short stop 2nd catcher
VIC 1st 2nd base 2nd pitcher

And then we have our batting line-up. Thanks to Fordo for volunteering
to bat first!

1. Alison
2. Richard
3. Emily
4. Peter
5. Kate
6. Ben
7. Vic
8. Andy
9. Jane
10. Julian
11. Manjiv

Yeh!!! Go the Lone Wolves!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Spontaneous Softballing!

Ben says :

We had five softball enthusiasts turn out for throwing and catching practice in our new training facility, King's Square Gardens (Congratulations to Jane, Peter, Alison and Manjiv). Our only problem was that between us we only had 2 gloves (including 1 small baseball glove) and 1 softball. We warmed up by playing throwing and catching then switched to some much needed pitching practice, using my Tupperware lunch box lid as a make shift batting plate. I am still in awe of anyone who can consistently pitch well, because it is so hard to get it the right height, length and direction to get those valuable potential strikes rather than wayward 'balls'.
After this, we changed to a training drill created 'on the fly' by yours truly. I conceived it would involve all five of us, taking into account the equipment shortfall. The following may become a little technical, but hey that's softball, a complicated American game. We had two people on bases (made up of our coats/bags etc.) two fielders and a 'batter'. I say batter, but their job was to start the play by throwing the ball out into the field (loosely simulating a batter's strike). Next the fielder's had to field the ball working out which one was going for it by shouting out their name. Once under the fielder's control (which often involved retrieving the said ball from the bushes) they threw it to either first or third base. Meanwhile the batter jogged around the roughly set out diamond, to keep up the 'game' feel to the practice. I think we all learned how difficult it is throwing the softball accurately to the person on the base, so that they can stay on base ready to get people out, as opposed to just doing regular throwing and catching practice.
We all switched around positions to get some valuable fielding, and base practice, although the batting simulation was a little energetic for all of us who at the start had expected to just come to a gentle 'throwing and catching' session. That's softball fever ladies and gentleman.
Hope to see more of you at the practices next week and remember to try to round up some support for the Loan Wolves first tournament on Saturday 24th September.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Learning the lingo

Peter, I've upgraded this to a full blown post - so that people don't miss it.

Everyone, feel free to send anything to me, if you want me to post it as a separate post.

Peter says:

I think it's important that we start trying to master "softball-speak". Screaming some knowing phrases at one another might just be the sort of thing to put the willies up our opposition in the tournament.

I'd like to share a couple of phrases I've picked up from the coaches in the Regents Park sessions to get the ball rolling (so to speak) with this:

Firstly, "Where's the play?": shouted by a fielder and meaning, if I have understood correctly, "if the ball comes my way next time the batter hits the ball, where in the name of all that is holy should I throw it?" A typical answer would be "third base", meaning that there is a batter standing at second base and there's every chance of getting him/her out if we throw to third. (Please anybody correct me if I'm wrong with this.)

Secondly, the almost totally pointless "We have a batter!" apparently shouted out at the beginning of an innings meaning, roughly, "Ladies and gentlemen, please take your places. Play is about to commence". What a palaver...

Have any other readers had similar experiences, I wonder?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Training session Monday 12th September

Another Monday, another victorious training session. This time we spent a good amount of time practising throwing and catching and then we moved on to all have a go at pitching. It is certainly more difficult than it looks and balls were going all over the place. It seems to be a matter of getting the length, height and line all right at the same time. However, a few of us seemed to show a little promise...and allowing for lots of practice time, we may just be able to cope.

We were then split into teams and given the chance to take turns batting and playing both outfield and infield. Once again the game scenario allowed us to get our heads around a few of the more subtle rules. For example I learnt that it is perfectly ok to stop during your run from one base to another, turn around and run back to where you started - as long as no one is directly behind you that is, and bearing in mind that someone can chase you back to tag you with the ball.

There is talk of meeting up over the next few days for sessions where we can practise the basic this space!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Training session Monday 5th Sept

A great time was had by everyone who attended yesterday's session at Regent's Park. We went, we pitched, we batted, and we ran. We may well have found our star pitcher in Ben (no pressure Ben), Julian proved an enormous asset in centre field, and both Inhee and Alison demonstrated their swift reflexes on second base. And me? I think I may have found my calling as "catcher" although full body armour may be needed -- does that softball hurt or what?

The tournament is fast approaching and I wonder if we should think about honing up our skills. During Richard's absence should we take the plunge and see if we can beg, buy or borrow some basic equipment and start practicing basic skills i.e. throwing/catching/running? Any views on this??

Next introduction session is Monday September 12th at the new time of 6:30pm - hope to see most of you there (especially those playing in the tournament). Vic - good luck trying to get your late night swapped!!

Keep on blogging....


Friday, September 02, 2005

The results are in!

Democracy has worked its magic, and we now have a team name and a team colour! Henceforth (or at least until we think of a better one) we shall be known as The Loan Wolves! Now the endless possibilites for themed slogans, mottos, logos and team songs open up before us. <- Here is an image of a wolf for your delight and consideration. Red was also voted as our offical team colour. So now our entry to the tournament can be sent off and we are on our way to world domination.

I was quite relieved to read on the tournament application form that there are likely to be experienced players there to help us out with base coaching and the like, so it should a good opportunity to improve our skills as well as get our wolvish teeth into the competition.

"Bring me home, May, bring me home!"

Thursday, September 01, 2005