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.



m.snowe said...

Coach Taylor, that was beautiful. I dedicate my first hit on Wednesday to you.

See you at the Banquet!

Chelly Chel

RaeRae said...

Kyle, I just got a little chill. That was AWESOME. Thanks for the memories and inspiration!!

Matt said...

Well said, KT.

Anonymous said...

Shakespeare is pissed at how good that is, KT.

Joe D. said...

This is great, brings back a lot of good memories. Good luck in getting to the postseason. But remember where you came from and make sure you make it out for a few post game drinks.

Tanya said...

I laughed, I cried, I hated you just a bit for being so much more inspirational than I could ever be... We'll win it for you and all the others who bleed Blue!

Cathy said...

I have many fond memories from my time with the Blues, and wish you guys lots of luck in the playoffs!

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