Last week I got my first taste of softball bureaucracy in its purest form; a preseason Captains’ Meeting. I’m the Vice Captain of our team (the Manchester Meteors, in case you’ve forgotten) and I was there with the Captain, Bryony. We had an agenda in advance but didn’t really know what to expect. What can I say? We are rookies in every sense of the word.
Arriving at a social club in South Manchester, we found a room with a few complete strangers and a number of empty chairs. We took our place somewhere near the middle (not too far forward so as to appear eager, not too far back so as to be hiding in the shadows) and let the place fill up around us. Soon the place was bustling with representatives from thirty-one teams from the Manchester Softball League. I recognised a few people from the Indoor League, but most were a mystery to me (many were from the heady heights of Divisions 1 and 2) and I didn’t go out of my way to meet everyone. We may have been in the middle of the room, looking confused and befuddled, but we still kind of wanted to blend in and look like we belonged there. No use in looking like we were desperate to make friends, right?
As the meeting progressed, many terms and issues were thrown around that left us bemused, but still we worked to keep up. When discussions moved to the planning of pitch improvements, we did our best to follow along (long story short, batting boxes get chewed up during normal play and groundskeepers really don’t like it). When talk moved to the structure of the league for the upcoming season, things got a little more serious. Would there be a Division 4 and 5? Would we start with one big division and split halfway through? This was the first motion that required a vote. Now, each team was allowed two representatives at the meeting but only received one vote. Bryony, to her credit, discussed with me the implications of the vote and took my counsel on board. We cast our vote (in favour of an immediate split of Division 4 and 5) and were soundly defeated by an overwhelming majority. We were stunned, mostly because we were set to go straight into that new Division 5, but oh well. Democracy. Later that evening, Martine from the Mossley Mayhem (who was one of the few that I recognised from the Indoor League) took the time to explain to us why the vote had gone the way that it had; two of the teams joining Division 5 were formerly in Division 3 but were restructured and this would have massively unbalanced Division 5 and lead to regular beatings by their far more experienced teams. This explanation went a long way to allaying our fears about being the new kids; it turned out that the experienced guys were looking out for us after all.
The next motion on the floor was about the structure of Divisions 1, 2 and 3. This meant that it was far less important for us, but by this time we were fully committed to being a part of the process. Deliberation went on for a long time and a recess was taken to discuss the different opinions in more detail. This was a big deal and the result wouldn’t even take effect until 2018. Serious business. Eventually, we were on the winning side of the vote (although the full implications of it won’t affect us for quite some time, so some would say that it didn’t matter to us). Still, it felt good to win this bit of the democratic game.
All in all, the meeting lasted two and a half hours and ended when each team was given their allocation of balls (don’t laugh, it’s childish) for the first half of the season.
To say that it was a learning experience would be an understatement. It’s hard to fully explain the passion and intensity of the people in that room, some of which have been playing for years and years. I do think it is fair to say that I left the meeting with a newfound respect for the work that goes on behind the scenes.
One thing is for sure: I’m totally ready to get out there and play ball.