Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Brink of History, Part II

To the best softball team in the least competitive co-ed division of the Yorkville Sports League:

I only have one thing to add to Coach Taylor's post. It seems strange five years down the road, but in the spring of 2006, we didn't know if the newly minted Oxford Blues would even return to defend their 1-11 record. Many of the Blues were moving on: team founder Al Cascio and manager-in-waiting Kyle Taylor were moving on to new jobs at new companies. We could always depend on KT to lead us on the field, and Al to send us semi-clad pictures of David Hasselhoff, but we needed someone to send out the emails, carry the team bag, and get everyone to the game on time.

I had a hunch that a couple of other Blues were better suited to the role than I was (a certain under-used utility player and dependable everyday catcher come to mind), but in the meantime, I had one talent to offer: my cubicle was next to Al's. When I finally volunteered for the job, Al pointed at me and hissed, "I f*@&ing knew you'd step up."

So I sent the emails, carried the bag and we got to our first game on time. And in the last inning we rallied for the win, what was then only our second victory ever. The following celebration provided a a worthy edit to the team mantra: have fun and drink beer, but you will always have more fun when you win. I wouldn't change anything about those early seasons (well, maybe one particular fly ball that was lost in the sun), but if we had made it to the playoffs? Wow...

So before you step on the field before tomorrow's historic game for our first-ever playoff berth, I'd like to leave you with the only sentiment I feel appropriate for the occasion: "I f*@&ing knew you'd step up." And I know you will again.

Let's go Blues.

Monday, June 28, 2010

On the Brink of History

Blues Brethren,

You are about to embark on a historic mission. That mission is to take the Blues into their first ever post-season.

With your indulgences, I’d like to use a common quote once said by Will Smith’s
character in the below average romantic-comedy Hitch. The quote is “You can’t always know where you are going until you know where you have been”. I normally cringe at such a cheesy line but in my mind it fits this moment very well . . .


“Don’t worry if you suck. It’s just an excuse to drink beer”

-Al Cascio, 2005 (aka The Godfather, Al Casanova, Skip)

Al Cascio was fond of sports and even more fond of drinking. One day he realized that four or five of his fellow OUPers were also interested in either sports, drinking, or both. So in the Spring of 2005 he went cubicle to cubicle, gathered support, started a petition, received funding, and started the Oxford Blues (named after the 1984 Rob Lowe movie) . The team started out small and consisted of a rag tag bunch of 10 or 12 wildly different characters. Their physical prowess was limited but that didn’t bother Al. His recruiting pitch focused more on the camaraderie and less on the competition. So the new team was established with the mantra: Have fun and Drink Beer.

(Al Cascio discussing team strategy with fellow Blue, Cathy Giffi)


The first season was a competitive disappointment although the Blues did stick to their mission of fun and drinks. On the field, the Blues struggled to field a full team of 10 and were often “mercy ruled” by the fifth inning. They also were forced to play on a dust bowl in Hell’s Kitchen and make shift fields scattered throughout Harlem. However, the team held their heads high and went out for cheap pitchers of beer after every game, no matter the outcome.

Then one summer day in 2005, the Blues managed to earn their first ever victory. It was a nail-biter that ended with the opposing team, WFAN Radio, grounding out with the go-ahead run on base to end the game and give the Blues their lone win of the season by the score of 5-6. In the post game jubilation, the team realized that the Blues had become more than just a team of unathletic drinking buddies. This was something special.

(Winning "scorecard" from the Blues first victory)

From that point on, the team grew closer and closer. By the end of the season the teammates looked for other excuses to congregate and drink and so a Blues tradition was born, the Annual Softball Banquet at the Astoria Beer Garden. At the banquet, season highlights were relived, individual awards were handed out, and of course plenty of Czech beer was consumed.

(First annual Blues Banquet 2005)

During the winter the gang continued to stick together and organized trips to the Cheap Shots bar in the east village, Beer Pong competitions on the Upper East Side, and parties in Brooklyn at the apartment of a rookie catcher named Tanya Laplante.


By the time the second season rolled around, the Blues had established themselves as a fun loving bunch and recruiting came easier. They now were able to consistently field a full team and so they looked to improve on their inaugural effort. They took a small step forward in the win column and earned three legitimate victories and one win via the forfeit. Things were headed in the right direction. Another advancement for the team was moving to the league's midtown division. This allowed the Blues to play closer to home and establish consistent uptown and downtown watering holes (Jake's Dilema and the Bull Moose).

(Blues team photo 2006)


During the Spring of 2007 the word had really spread around OUP that the Blues were on the rise and were welcoming all newcomers just like in years past. However, because of the team’s new popularity the roster grew to over 25 players and coaches Matt Greene, Tanya Laplante, and Kyle Taylor had a bit of a problem. The Blues had always allowed everyone to participate, so for the first two games of the season they tried to stick to that principle by rotating players every two innings to accommodate everyone. This carousel of players didn’t allow anyone to get into a rhythm on offense or defense and resulted in two mercy rule losses and a restructuring of the team.

You see, the coaches realized that in order to accomplish rule #1 (Have Fun) the team had to be able to finish games, and therefore be competitive, and therefore limit the number of players per game. This was a controversial maneuver but the Blues were able to pull off the delicate balance of staying relevant on the field while avoiding the temptation to be ruthless with roster spots in the name of success.

(Blues at the Bull Moose 2007)


The Blues lost a few key players during the off season between the 2007 and 2008. The first few practices in 2008 hosted a bunch of fresh new faces. This new mix of old and new Blues challenged the team to come together quickly, which they did. After a few games the team gelled and had one of their best after-hours seasons since the early days. There was ranch dressing chugging, countless rounds of Goldshlager shots, and an epic night of karaoke at the Bull Moose with the Blues, medical marketing's Team Bussy, and family and friends all the way from Germany. Unfortunately, the karaoke and fun didn’t translate into wins on the field. The team struggled early on and would finish the season with only one win.

(Blues team photo 2008)


I moved away in the fall of 2008 and wasn’t on hand for the 2009 season but I stayed in close touch with the team. From all accounts, the 2008’s 1-11 season had zapped some of the enthusiasm from the four-year veteran players, including coach Laplante and newly promoted coach Ben Keene. Although the newer players were still optimistic and able to shrug off the tough losses, the weight of four years of defeat had worn down the remaining original players. When the team started out 1-7 and took a crushing loss to Telerep, the outlook was bleak. The team was able to party on valiantly but underneath the surface of cheap pitchers, beer pong, and hot wings, for the first time the franchise was in pain.

The next week the Blues earned a victory via the forfeit. After such a rough start to the season, most teams would probably take the cheap win and cancel the trip to the park. They might instead opt to go straight to the bar or maybe even go straight home and enjoy the night off. The Blues had other plans in mind. Even though they were dwelling in the bottom of the league with no chances for the playoffs, they decided to continue on to the scheduled field to practice hitting some balls and have a scrimmage.

Although there is no way of knowing for sure, I like to believe that the Blues spirit and decision to continue on to practice that day set the team on an upward swing from which they have not yet come down. After winning just just two legitimate games in the previous two years, the Blues would go on to finish their remaining four games with two wins (including a 21 to 1 blowout), one loss, and one tie. Most importantly, they would end the season on a positive note and create momentum for 2009.

(Blues team photo 2009)


This year, the team has picked up where they left off in 2009 and they have broken just about every competitive record in franchise history. It has been a year of firsts including the first ever 6-win season, the first ever shutout victory, and the first ever walk off home run. With a 6-5 record and one game remaining, the Blues are also on the verge of their first ever winning season.

(2010 Blues in their B-Boy Stance)


. . . So now that you know where the Blues have been, I hope that you are a little better equipped to take them further than they have ever been before.

I know you’ll go out there and give it all you have, but don’t forget to take a second to enjoy the moment for its place not only in Blues history but in your history.

Because what now seems like a single important softball game, will one day be part of the surreal and beloved time in your life when you played and partied alongside some of your greatest friends, in the greatest park, in the greatest city in the world.

Go Blues.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bombers: 0, Blues: 12

This week's recap was contributed by Taylor "Tater Tot" Pilkington. —The Editors.   

Under the looming skies of Dewitt Clinton Park, the Oxford Blues recorded their third mercy rule and fifth win of the season over the REBAS Bombers by a score of 12-0. Although afternoon rains threatened to turn the infield to quicksand, not even Mother Nature could stand in the way of our intrepid heroes’ quest for victory. A little light landscaping, and the stage was set for athletic domination.

On the mound, The Pocket Rocket pitched a shutout as the Blues moved closer to clinching a playoff spot. Employing a vicious Vulcan changeup, Robtronic mowed down batters like Ozzi eating hamburgers (Jeopardy Category: Things that Happen Fast. Also a correct response: Dave’s lovemaking). Noted a source close to the Blues pitching staff: "The R-Train was making express stops today. All the way downtown, if you know what I mean. No seriously, he pitched really well. I mean, super-good, like the Michael Jordan of baseball, excluding that one time he actually did play baseball."

In truth, the game happened so quickly that it's hard to piece it back together. The Oxford bats were on fire. Dave hit an inside the park home run (aren’t they all really, in this league?) and got the game ball. Ben complained about the sorry state of large, corporate American breweries. Brian sacrificed his body to protect the unspoiled sanctity of left field. Michelle bulldozed through a player who tried to cover the plate without the ball. (Family members say he's resting comfortably at Mount Sinai Hospital; the closed-casket funeral will be held next Tuesday.) And Joe C. wore a new hat, a hot cherry red number to complement his position at the hot corner (Like David Lee Roth, a Blue knows that it’s not just winning, but looking good doing it that matters). 

After the bloodbath was over, the team retired to the Bull Moose where, along with The Best Dressed Man in New York, they made merry for many hours. Amidst the festivities, Elyse solemnly pledged to stay out all night drinking before the end of the season. Plus, Coach Laplante, Oxford's daring leader, had more than one reason to celebrate; not only did she captain the brave Blues to a commanding victory (personally dealing the death blow by scoring the 12th and final run), she also celebrated her 21st birthday and attained the dizzying career heights of Executive Editor. This called for cupcakes! Many, many cupcakes.

Another day, another win for the Blues, and for some, another step closer to Immortality. In the words of Coach Taylor: "Booyah! The team's inspirational emails paid off. Blues are positioned for playoffs! Incredible."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Google: 14, Blues: 8

There's something fishy about a club that turns up wearing the home team's uniform. And yet that's exactly what Google did on June 10th, right before they handed the Blues their fourth loss of the season. So for anyone who thinks that this search engine company is merely interested in "organizing the world's information," here's a little lesson: they like to win, too.

Playing to maintain their place at the top of Division III, Google took an early lead with eight runs after two innings. The Blues never gave up on defense, trying to keep the other team in blue and white from coasting to an easy victory, but their opponents hit hard and ran with speed. They had clearly earned their ranking. Ozzi and Taylor stopped most of the deep shots to center field, and Joe C made a catlike diving grab at third to rob them of another hit, and yet little by little, the run deficit grew as the night wore on.

On offense Brian swung the bat well as an Extra Hitter, and Dave scored off a solo homer to right field.  Even playing a woman down though, Google didn't have many weak spots, and they held the Blues to two runs or less for six innings. Then, in the seventh, encouraged by Ozzi's massive wallop down the third base line, Oxford mounted a comeback. In the end they couldn't make up for a slow start, and left two runners on as time ran out. 

So the fans that turned up to cheer for the Blues didn't see a win, but after a few pitchers of Long Hammer IPA (and at least one of Bud Light) at the Bull Moose, everyone remembered that there were still four games left in 2010.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Slammers: 15, Blues: 16

With the team reporter calling out sick due to a non-sporting event at Radio City Music Hall, Blues fans will have to settle for a second-hand recap of Game Seven. They won't however, have to read about another crushing defeat at the hands of the CSTV Slammers. Coming from behind, Oxford improved their record to 4-3 with a walk-off, three-run home run from Ozzi.

Missing their regular third baseman at the start of the game, the first inning started off rough for the Blues defense
. True to fashion, the Slammers quickly put six runs on the board to take the early lead. Never a team to go quietly though, Oxford responded with five of their own in their first at-bat. According to our embedded correspondent, "the other innings are a bit blurry." In spite of solid, largely error-free defense from the blue and white, CSTV hit really well and continued to score in the innings that followed.

Ozzi delivered his first homer (this time a mere solo shot) midway through the match to keep things interesting. Meanwhile, every batter was patient at the plate—waiting for good pitches and getting hits that resulted in runners and another score for the home team. In fact, the first six hitters in the lineup had an on-base percentage of .929. Not too shabby for the underdogs.

After five innings the Blues were trailing by nine. Then, fighting back with five more runs, they proceeded to hold the Slammers scoreless in the sixth and seventh innings. Going to bat at the bottom of the seventh, Oxford looked confident but remained down by four. Ebin (or should I say "Steady Ebbie") came up first and got on base with a double. One strike out later, Robert sprinted to safety down the first baseline, enabling Ebin slide into third by the skin of his teeth (or cleats). Michelle brought him home with an RBI and advanced Rob to second, who then scored on David's double from the third slot in the lineup. This brought Ozzi to bat with one out and two on and, well... you know how this one ends already. With a fourth Blues victory.

Capping off a big win, the team celebrated with cupcakes and beer pong domination courtesy of Taylor and Dave. Rae's photographs tell the rest.