Masters of DISaster include (from l) Coach Jim Linn, Co-Manager Monika Kloda, Frannie Snediker, Co-Manager Katie McLaughlin, Katie Franklin, Weldon Payne, Maryland Hatch and Annette Cruz.
As softball tournament games wind down, the teams left in the league are battling to the finish. The tournament started July 16 and ends Aug. 13. Some teams feature seasoned players while others have members who have never swung a bat. But all are excited for a chance to win the series. Based on the regular season, the standings favor the Isotopes, Co-Wrecks, Hit Squad and SWAT Squad, with other teams following behind: Regulators Rookies, Secret Reagents, Base Pathogens, Regulators Veterans and Masters of DISaster.
This season, the Co-Rec Softball League, sponsored by the NIH Recreation & Welfare Association, welcomed a new team with players who were especially excited for their first tournament games. Reminiscent of the baseball movie The Bad News Bears, the Office of Research Services’ Masters of DISaster began its first season with minimal runs and low prospects. A division within ORS, the Division of International Services (DIS) provides immigration-related services to NIH for visiting foreign scientists and the NIH research community.
According to Co-Manager Monika Kloda, starting a softball team has already united the office. Most had never played softball before, but they rallied together to learn and enjoy the game. Fortunately, the league focuses on equal time for all players so that everyone has a chance to learn different positions. As for the Masters, they quickly learned to stitch up their gloves so that balls didn’t fly right through them. Pinch runners were used often for players who were either unable to run fast or recuperating from an injury. Unfortunately, the Masters had quite a few injuries in the first couple of games. As one player, Tim Price, said, “Man, it hurts when you get hit by one of those softballs!”
The Masters acquired one of their foreign scientists, who knew nothing about softball (or baseball) but took on the position of pitcher and has been doing great so far. They also acquired a coach who gave the team guidance during weekday games and Sunday practices.
League rules try to make the games fair, but new players found them both confusing and frustrating. It took a few games for Masters to realize that when any player goes up to bat, the count is already one ball and one strike. Also, in this league there are normally 7 innings, but games can be shortened to 5. If a team is ahead by 12 or more runs by the 5th inning, the league applies the “slaughter (or mercy) rule” and ends the game.
The Masters’ first game was against the league champion Co-Wrecks. Although the Co-Wrecks were helpful and gracious, they still beat the Masters 25-0 in 5 innings. The slaughter rule became a recurring theme for their games, with only a couple being close. Nevertheless, the Masters never lost hope and still had fun.
While there is always room for improvement, the Masters have come a long way. Whether winning or losing, they maintain a positive attitude and push each other to improve. Although Masters of DISaster may not win a single game this season, their spirit would resonate with the Bad News Bears: “Wait ’til next year!”—Catherine Franklin