Tag Archives: Freeplay Softball

Free Play Rings the Bell Curve

"Don't start singing until I raise my hands and give the signal."

“Don’t start singing until I raise my hands and give the signal.”

(Actually, Dave, back to the camera, is discussing further sales of 26th Anniversary Freeplay Softball swag.)

85 degrees at 10am. The crew could barely be moved to execute a batting practice. It was the oddest start to a game in my fourteen years.

But, what followed was a second game in a row during which both teams played each other like heavyweights, trading hard blow for hard blow, until defensive troubles keyed a last inning rout. As the handicapper, I always hope for smoothing by virtue of individual mean performances canceling one another out. However, on Sunday, once again I was reminded that of the two kinds of outlier performances, the offensive mediocre becoming godlike, and the defensive godlike becoming nightmarish, it is the latter outlier that most ably causes the train to jump its tracks.

Mike

Mike

When new players show up for the first time, the big test is in the future. Will they return? Mike, pictured above has returned, and I for one am grateful. We had a brand new player, Eddis, do a Travis Fryman impersonation at third. Butter. Wow!

And, then, at bat, Eddis finally got a hold of a ball–and we knew that was going to happen.

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Freeplay Kablooey

Freeplay Softball

This photo from the game today shows a ball driven down the left field line by a batter, Pete, who is out of the frame, the left fielder chasing the ball, the shortstop to the left of the baserunner running from second moving to take the cut-off throw, the third baseman waiting, the pitcher contemplating, a 3rd base coach advising, and, what seems to me to be a lonely bat tossed to the front of the circle at home plate.

The game was very close until it became a last inning, and decisive, rout. The home team managed to hit its way out of deficits created by outbursts of its own shoddy fielding, but in the last inning this pattern was deposed by the defense of the visitors, who had earlier come to bat in the top of the seventh and scored eight runs.

From my spot, playing right field for the visiting team, there was a lot of interesting dynamics in the final inning, and some of my reflections could be captured by the idea, “What does a player contemplate within the live flow of the game?” This is unanswerable.

Ironically, today’s game was much closer than the score but it also was the worst rout of the season. The brightest spots were all the new 25th Anniversary swag distributed by Dave Kolb, and, for me, the great play by a rapidly improving player who is playing his first season’s worth of softball in over two decades. Will – you’re the man!

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Free Play Routski

Is the dark matter blowing in, or, out, wonders astronomer Stacy

Is the dark matter blowing in, or, out, wonders astronomer Stacy

I turned to Dave Kolb at the beginning of our at-bat in the top of the third inning, and because the score was 3-12, said to him,

“I knew the regression to the mean would come eventually.”

In response, Dave tells me,

“It depends whether or not you believe in probability!”

We tossed a few more musings back and forth.

We have a darn interesting inner free play softball game too. Anyway, I added the probability thingy to the long list of fascinating topics I’m motivated to some day, or in some lifetime, discuss.

The game ended 18-12. My wondrous handicapping streak is over. Probably it could start up again.

Al, and his kids Brandon, AJ, (and Rick)

Al in the blue shorts, and his kids Brandon, AJ, (and Dave and Rick)

The intergenerational aspect to our Free Play Softball league was evident when Al and his sons showed up. If memory serves me, Al was playing in our game the same year I started, 2002. His kids are now in their teens. Kurt wasn’t there Sunday, but his son Max plays with us. Mark’s son Vincent is normally a regular, but he was riding dune buggies somewhere on this day.

FreePlayJuly5-2015DSC04942

The game wasn’t as close as the final score, or, alternately, it was closer after the visitors spotted the home team a 12-3 lead. I made a rare executive inter-game trade at the end of the third inning, and, well, as the kids say these days, ‘whatever!’

The team photo reflects me telling the group to look like they had some fun. Apparently, it was a grueling game for some of the players; albeit it transpired under perfect conditions on Field #11; except for the aforementioned handicapping.

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Free Play Softball Squeezes a Game In

David A. Kolb

 

David A. Kolb, second from left, was the main founder of Free Play Softball, now in the middle of its 25th season. He was doing brisk business getting players to make pre-orders of 25th anniversary swag. Will, all the way to the right, hit a critical triple–with an error providing homerun-like experience–as we all collaborated on a seventh consecutive close game.

If you are ambulatory and between the ages of 12 and 112, join us Sunday mornings at 10am, Forest Hills Park, Cleveland Heights, Field #11. We have extra gloves.

 

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When Will the Regression Happen?

ACTION SEQUENCE:Elder Larry bats, second youngest Vincent runs--Vincent beats the throw to gain Larry a single

Elder Lartry bats, second youngest Vincent runs–Vincent beats the throw to gain Larry a single

As the so-called oddsmaker, my lineups this year have resulted in nothing but close games.

V--HOME
18 17
16 14
15 16
17 18*
13 14
11 12

Six games have been decided by a total of seven runs.

My goal every week is to constitute rosters that will possibly result in either team having a chance to win in the last inning.

Only one game has been decided by the last at-bat of the home team. (*)

I haven’t crunched the numbers for previous seasons, but as oddsmaker for eleven seasons I understand that the Bell Curve of results over those seasons would show one run games are not so far away from the mean result to be outliers. But, even my most successful handicapping over entire seasons has also showcased plenty of routs, so my guess is the mean result for my best season as oddsmaker is a margin much larger than a mere single run.

Alternately, we’re at the beginning of my best season. This is scary because the inevitable regression will arrive one of these Sundays. I’ll also learn if habituating players to close games comes with a psychic cost too.

June 7, 2015

June 7, 2015

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No, He Didn’t?!?

Mike the Lefty sending a message to right field

Mike the Lefty sending a message to right field

MJ'S 3 5 0 0 7 0 2 --- 17
FC'S 4 6 2 3 0 2 1 --- 18

May 24th turnout was stellar, weather: perfect

May 24th turnout was stellar, weather: perfect


Over fourteen years I’ve observed strange actions on the FreePlay Softball League diamond. The game is so interesting to me in the theoretical sense that it never occurred to me before yesterday that at the micro-level the game’s weirder actions could earn an account. This could be termed an account of decisive anomalies. Furthermore, those anomalies could be differentiated into different classes.

Two such classes came to mind yesterday: (1) unwilled decisive anomalies, (2) willful decisive anomalies. Yesterday’s game was ended by action of the second kind.

Fortunately, I don’t do any scenario cataloging at the micro or macro level, even if I’m aware that the system of the game offers up all sorts of distinct scenarios or situations. Yet, I see this unbelievable stuff happen and imagine all sorts of fascinating research vectors.

Another way to look at it is sort of metaphysical. We’ve moved from good ol’ field #8 two seasons ago, went through the wilderness of constituting ad hoc field for the better part of two seasons. Today, due to a reconfiguration of the entire open expanse of the Forest Hills fields–into four diamonds–we’ve been delivered to our new home, Field #11.

What is the status now of actions associated with Field #8?

Wheel of Karma

Wheel of Karma

Does Field #11 have a karmic repository large enough for all the weird stuff to come in the future?

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Free Play and the Warm and Fuzzily Utilitarian

Katz-FPS-April26-15-DSC04152

Katz, the greatest junk ball hitter of all time

THE JUNIORS     3  0  4  4  2  7  0  5   x25 
THE KATZ'S      3  1  4  1  1  7  3  4   x24

The Dilemma (opening day 2015, our 25th year begins)

It is the bottom of the sixth and the home team is losing 10-20. I hit a soft grounder up the middle of the infield. Jedi Master Matt was on first base at the time so he took off for the second base. I get to first base. I hear a commotion. A lone voice from the home team plaintively asserts: “He is safe all the way.”

Whereas, from the team in the field, come eruptions disputing the soon-to-be irrelevant opinion, and these eruptions are followed by vigorously argued alternative accounts, accounts which fly up like rubber-band powered airplanes, except the rubber bands have not been wound. These accounts collide and clatter to the ground.

Walt, the first baseman, stands next to me and offers his own view. He steps away from the base path and the legion of visiting players, stuck somewhere between a Greek chorus and a forty year reunion of The Vienna Boy’s Choir, turns toward me and moans a chorus of certitudes spiced with complaint.

Walt turns toward me. “What is your call?”

To myself, briskly, I consider the possibility of the confirmation bias having infected the perceptions of the visitors. I consider the several colliding narratives. I noted for my own part, my own senses were holistically focused on reaching first base. And, anyway, Walt blocked my view.

I regarded the rare facticity of uncertainty and a Bayesian assessment unable to be—no, I didn’t do this. Rather, I appealed to a principle of ethical utility that sometimes comes into play in our free play. A rout was at hand, and yet momentum was maybe to swing for a moment in the direction of the underdogs. A window clamped down all winter could be heard ascending its rusty tracks.

I thought to myself:

It is not a sure thing, but a possible thing, that the see-saw might swing toward competitive equilibrium if I grant amidst an irresolvable conflict that a higher, and grander principle be served. Understanding a close game favors the greatest good for the greatest number, I turned my head away from the protestors and toward the Jedi Master.

“Matt, they report you never even touched the base. Are you touching the base now?”

Yes! He replies.

FreePlaypanorama-April26-2015-DSC04148

Then I call this man safe today!

Basis of moral judgment:
I Moral value resides in external, quasi-physical happenings, in bad acts, or in quasi-physical needs rather than in persons and standards.

Stages of Development:
1. Obedience and punishment.
2. Naively egoistic orientation


Basis of moral judgment:
II Moral value resides in performing good or right roles, in maintaining the conventional order and the expectancies of others.

Stages of Development:
3. Good-boy orientation.
4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation 25%


Basis of moral judgment:
III Moral value resides in conformity by the self to shared standards, rights, or duties.

Stages of Development:
5. Contractual legalistic orientations
6. Conscience or principle orientation 75%

(Kakkori et al, adapted from Kohlberg, Levine, & Hewer (1981) Leena Kakkori, Rauno Huttunen, Gilligan-Kohlberg Controversy and Preliminary Conclusion)

Free-Play-April-26-2015DSC04159

Fortunately for me, the visitors eked out a one-run win in one extra frame.  . . .smiling faces all around.

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A Debacle

Freeplay-Oct-19

After two one run games the two Sundays, games in which the visitors prevented the home team from scoring any runs in the bottom of the seventh, the visitors were crushed. As handicapper, two complaints were directed at me, one having to do with not spreading out the weaker players, and, the other with stopping the game “arbitrarily.”

(No comment. Oh, wait, I went one-for-six playing for the winning team, so there sure was a weak player on the home team!)

So:

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Loosing My Cool in the Cool

FreePlay-Oct-5-2014

As Free Play Softball winds its season down, our ability to extend the season is based in individual players being motivated enough to come out in the cooler weather. On Sunday it was right around 50 degrees at game time. We’ve played in much colder weather. Otherwise the conditions were crisp: sunny with scattered clouds, lots of Canadian geese poop, and a mild breeze blowing straight out to center field. This Sunday wasn’t a test of motivation. That will come soon enough.

As I’ve mentioned before, with turnouts of 11-14 players, we cut the outfield in half and outfit teams defensively with one less outfielder and one less infielder. The biggest individual impact is on the few players like me who tend to hit between left and right center. The biggest impact of the reduced numbers for making out the line-ups, chosen by me the so-called handicapper, is that deviations from mean–typical–performance are more likely to be amplified rather than smoothed. There’s a big difference between full teams of ten each and smaller line-ups of six each.

Sunday’s game did achieve the holy grail of handicapping: a one run game in favor of the visiting team. On the other hand, for me, it showcased my brief melt down when my team’s pitcher threw a pitch before his outfield was set. I was walking toward my spot when the balled arced ten feet from my path. This frustrated me greatly because I am so slow that I need the advantage of starting out in left field in the proper position, given the batter.  I yelled profanely at my team mate.

Maybe it was just in a minor way that this same pitcher obtained two outs with the winning run at second base in the last frame of the game. It was a splendid performance in that he retired the two most bruising hitters in the line-up.

 

 

 

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Nice Guys Finish

Andree

Focus.


Legs of sixteen year old, yet, I think this was his 10,000th at-bat!

Legs of a sixteen year old, yet, I think this was his 10,000th career at-bat!

Free Play Softball League

The Hotheads beat the Coolheads by two runs. The surprisingly small turnouts have been a challenge for the handicapper. The pleasure this fine Sunday morning was a pair of unassisted homeruns from Katz.

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The Catch

Lucy

In my unstoried softball career I’ve enjoyed two periods of defensive excellence. Excellence counted as not making a circus of the routine. The first was between 1977-1984, an era during which Bob Buckeye and I locked down center and left field for the Abernathy Special Collections challenge team. during that time, Andy Kirkaldy was at the hot spot, and he was the best short stop I ever played behind. I turned thirty in 1984–heck, thirty years ago–and turned myself into a volleyball hero for the next ten years.

(Ironically, blessed with good hand/eye coordination and a crafty mind, volleyball was the only sport I ever was really nicely fit to.)

The second period started in 2002 at the time I once again trotted out to left field; this return came, after 18 years. Luckily I kept my giant Rawlings glove, a xmas gift from around 1970. Free Play Softball gave me a second life as an outfielder at forty-seven years of young. In October of 2005, I suffered the most serious on-field accident any of the Free Players so far have experienced when a line drive and a low sun and a momentary lapse in my attentiveness worked together to land the ball between my eyes with a fearsome thunk. Blood everywhere. $6k hospital bill.

I would like to report that in the next year, in the new season, I shook this off. In actuality, I was terribly snake bitten for the next three seasons. Although I consistently played left field from 2006 through 2011, and while I basically still can catch almost anything hit within my shrinking range, my own review of my skills is harsh. I’ve become slow. My signal strength remains but its being combined with a loss of velocity measures my decline as an outfielder–well, I do turn sixty next week!

I’d be a really good first base person, my original softball position back in 1970, but, nowadays, I do my damage in right field or as the roaming outfielder.

Free Play Softball

Close game this week. Funny stuff happens. Our Sunday games are not–how to put this–over-determined. If we’re sometimes careless about the handful of nuances, such as mentally simulating what might happen next time the ball is put in play, still, the nuances that gently hold the miniature dramas in our oft performed theatre of the momentarily absurd remain in great hands, in everybody’s great hands.

“Bring something incomprehensible into the world!” – Gilles Deleuze

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The Smoothing Factor

Free Play Softball league

This past Sunday we had our first turnout that was so copious I had to institute the rotation rule: when a team’s numbers exceed eleven, players must sit an inning out to insure only eleven are on the field at once. (Related to this is the rule that requires of unequal numbers to field the same number of players in the field.) This an example of a rule that has come about by a combination of fiat and informal discussion, which is to say we discussed several seasons ago the imposition of the rule by my fiat. Usually the extra players are absorbed in the outfield, giving the defense five outfielders. It’s crowded out there!

When we have more than the standard number of players–to me, it’s nine players–devising equitable distributions of players is easier. Well, I tell this to myself because I suppose that greater numbers smooth out the aggregate regressions of player performance. I do not know if this folk supposition is actually correct, but I do know we had our second one run game in a row!

Peanuts Gang

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The Precarity of the Estimate

Free Play Aug 4

This week, with the game on the line in the top of the last inning, the visiting team smartly aimed their offense at a weak spot in the infield and ended up with one single, one runner on base by error, and three successfully fielded ground balls. Outlier!

Then, needing a run to win with two outs in the bottom of the last inning, and bases loaded, this same fielder came up with his bust-to-boom hitting approach and pumped a pitch 300 feet for the walk-off win.

One run  game. Ideal obtained!

FreePlayRoster-Aug4

A simple example will show the nature of this difficulty. Consider some ball game played by a few people of approximately equal skill. If we knew a few particular facts in addition to our general knowledge of the ability of the individual players, such as their state of attention, their perceptions and the state of their hearts, lungs, muscles etc. at each moment of the game, we could probably predict the outcome. Indeed, if we were familiar both with the game and the teams we should probably have a fairly shrewd idea on what the outcome will depend. But we shall of course not be able to ascertain those facts and in consequence the result of the game will be outside the range of the scientifically predictable, however well we may know what effects particular events would have on the result of the game. This does not mean that we can make no predictions at all about the course of such a game. If we know the rules of the different games we shall, in watching one, very soon know which game is being played and what kinds of actions we can expect and what kind not. But our capacity to predict will be confined to such general characteristics of the events to be expected and not include the capacity of predicting particular individual events. Friedrich August Von Hayek

As the Free Play Softball handicapper for ten years, social systems/human cybernetic theories provide me with critical perspectives, none of which impact my ability to obtain the ideal of handicapping: a close game. Such perspectives are meta-related (second order in a cybernetic sense,) to the game at-hand. They allow me to not only be a participant/observer, but also to be informal analyst/ethnographer. Crucially, at least for my peace of mind, I can step back and consider the interplay of domains in the game but not of the game. Another consequence of how I view my role is: I make out line-ups knowing beforehand that any line-up possesses characteristics of some kinds,and, doesn’t possess characteristics of other kinds.

For example, line-ups do not possess the characteristic of embedding the eventual outcome of the game within their flux of estimations and generalizations.

They do reflect an on-the-spot generalization of a quick reconnaissance of performative variables. However, I know going into the exercise that the actual dynamic interplay of many player’s regression-to-the-Mean with the outlying performances of a handful of players is enough to falsify any hope for a close game, and realization of a game that objectifies actual parity. I make a very informed effort to design a close game and yet close games, decided by three or fewer runs, are comparatively rare.

(I have had occasion to point out to a few of the several players who monitor my handicapping track record that outlying negative performance of the better players and exceptional performances of the mediocre players tends to be more decisive than the mean performance of mediocre players.)

Other players theorize the line-ups. Player’s folk theorizing doesn’t bother me because I understand the double framework of the performative system: the Meta-system is focused by its norms and heuristics–a line-up is a heuristic–while the phenomenal system instantiates the precarity of performance. The latter system cannot ratify idealized estimations. Idealized estimations are heuristic; what players actually do to implement the five skills (hit, catch, throw, run, remember where they bat in the lineup,) is part of the phenomenal–enacted by experience–system.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Free Play Softball League for me, the inveterate researcher, is that I assume most players think meta-thoughts about the game and these in turn refer at least loosely to their cognition within their own contextualizing of their individual Free Play experience. I don’t know anybody else’s detailed specific system-making, but I do know how I contextualize the game. Players may regard the heuristics, regard their phenomenal experience of the game, and reflect upon and make connections between the two fields in completely different ways. There is something of the black box in this, but also, the line-up–which after all is a quasi-economic object too–is established to be the main totem of anticipation of outcome.

The line-up is a charismatic object, and along with this come, at times, a projection onto the handicapper which holds that in some direct way the result of the game is embedded by me (!) in the line-up. No, most times my estimations and generalizations, aimed to achieve parity, are falsified.

What allows me to put up with line-up related guff is my understanding something about the math of precarity in human systems.

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Its quaint events were hammered out

Dave Kolb

Dave delivering the yellow pill

Mike

Mike pulls a single out of the hat

Rick swallows the yellow pill

Rick swallows the yellow pill

FreePlayJuly20-2014DSC01325

Anon, to sudden silence won,
In fancy they pursue
The dream-child moving through a land
Of wonders wild and new,
In friendly chat with bird or beast–
And half believe it true.

And ever, as the story drained
The wells of fancy dry,
And faintly strove that weary one
To put the subject by,
“The rest next time”–“It is next time!”
The happy voices cry.

Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out–
And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, a merry crew,
Beneath the setting sun.

Alice! a childish story take,
And with a gentle hand
Lay it where Childhood’s dreams are twined
In Memory’s mystic band,
Like pilgrim’s withered wreath of flowers
Plucked in a far-off land.

excerpt from All In the Golden Afternoon / Lewis Carroll

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Bambino Communicates

Free Play June 29

Our foray into animating mostly aging bodies for the purpose of continuing the autopoietic experiment set course on a perfect June day.

Last week featured a walk-off comeback, but Sunday’s game echoed the game two weeks before, the bottom of the order of the visitors–the visiting team being the team I place Mark Jr. on–came through again with lots of seeing-eye hits. To make the self-organization of the mismatch possible, Jedi Matt arrived late, after Pete, “shirtless, above average first baseman,” and automatically was placed at the bottom of the home team’s line-up.

Bambino!

Bambino!

Driving away after the game, I slowed down to complement Jedi Matt on his five hits in five at-bats day–including a homerun, and he in his modest way, reminded me he is over two weeks, ten-for-ten. I have to emphasize modest too: for the twelve years I have been playing Free Play Softball Matt has not once become entangled in any drama, any vaunting of any outcome, and, even his reminder about his performance carried with it no inflection of self-aggrandizement. Yes, Jedis are like this!

Katz, the greatest junk ball hitter of all time.

Katz, the greatest junk ball hitter of all time.

Where is this ball headed?

I tease Katz, asking him when he arrives,

Which Katz is showing up today?

The effortless fielder and crafty hitter has been showing up recently.

3-autopoietic-systems

Niklas Luhmann suggests new framework for understanding society that society is an autopoietic system, in other word, society is the nexus of communication. He insists that the element of the society is communication, not actor nor action.

Purloined from Naruse, Iba; Ecosystem as an Autopoietic System Considering Relationship between Ecology and Society based on Luhmann’s Theory [pdf].

(Being a cybernetics kind-of-dude, any event that constitutes a difference making the difference is communicative; this includes all such events in the closed system of a softball game. Example: a hit or a catch encapsulates the embodied psychic intention; so a hit or a catch enacts the communication in the physically permeable agentic structure of the game’s social system. A game structures the possibilities for emergent instances of communication and so a game instantiates events that reflect, and briefly ‘incarnate,’ the foamy, non-substantial, psychic intentions.)

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Some Days You Eat the Bear, and Some Days. . .

Free Play Softball

Except for the inveterate rebels, everybody took off their hat to let the sun light up their face

Buddha softball

Life is like heady wine.
Everyone reads the label on the bottle. Hardly anyone tastes the wine.
Buddha once pointed to a flower and asked each of his disciples to say something about it.

One pronounced a lecture.
Another a poem.
Yet another a parable.
Each outdid the other in depth and erudition.
Label-makers!
Mahakashyap smiled and held his tongue. (Only he had seen the flower.)

If I could only taste a bird, a flower,
a tree,
a human face!
But, alas, I have no time.
My energy is spent deciphering the label.

(h/t Anthony DeMello)

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Close & Almost Error Free, But Never Perfect

naming

The good life is a process, not a state of being. -Carl Rogers

Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen

StacyHR-Juen-1

Stacy. The ball is headed toward the right center hinterlands of Field #8 “B.”

DickFPSB-June-1

Dick has one of the shortest, smoothest swings of any of our crew. It is a thing of beauty.

FreePlay-June-1

7-5 final score. One of the best defensive battles ever, even if it the perfect weather conditions were somewhat balanced by the uncut, five inch+ long grass.

What Is So Rare As A Day in June

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there’s never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature’s palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o’errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,-
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?
Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
‘Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For our couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer’s lowing,-
And hark! How clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!
Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;
Everything is happy now,
Everything is upward striving;
‘Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue,-
‘Tis for the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave not wake,
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season’s youth,
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep ‘neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.
=James Russell Lowell

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Turn Out

Free Play Softball
The photographer was player number twenty. Ringers Adam and Matt stand out because of their uniforms.

Launched!

Launched!

Free Play Softball enjoyed its first ideal turnout of the season. Twenty came, twenty played, and, hopefully twenty will return next week. As a group we have long been resourceful about our numbers. Everybody plays. This is true when the group obtain epic numbers–say, twenty-five or more–and, also, we’ve figured out how to configure a game when half the ideal number, ten, show up.

But, twenty is ideal.

This year, so far, we’ve played on field #8 once, choosing on other weeks to move our diamond away from the treacherous swamp formed by poor drainage behind the path from second to third base. This week we also adjusted our location and played on the fenced-in league field #3 adjacent to our scraggly open grass field, #8. It’s a fast, unforgiving infield attached to a capacious outfield that goes up hill.

In the past we’ve opted not to use the so-called pro field because it really demands keen infield play on its dirt infield. The consensus has been: we’re not really up to the challenge. But, once a year a group with a permit takes over the hallowed diamond and we make our way to a normal field, with benches, and fences, and puffy bases. This week two ringers showed up and were convinced to play in our grizzled circus.

The high point for me was the return of Dave B. His shoulder on the right side underwent some off-season carving, so I challenged him as to what position he thought he could manage throwing underhand. I put him out at pitcher and he did really well. His team moved him to second base–he’s an ace fielder–and he quickly generated an effective sidearm throw. And, testing his bony geometry with bat in hand he slapped hits around the field as if a surgeon hadn’t paid him any off season visit at all!

Free Play Softball
Once the game began all tools remained in the toolbox.

Authoritative Interventions
Prescriptive – You explicitly direct the person you are helping by giving advice and direction.
Informative – You provide information to instruct and guide the other person.
Confronting – You challenge the other person’s behavior or attitude. Not to be confused with aggressive confrontation, “confronting” is positive and constructive. It helps the other person consider behavior and attitudes of which they would otherwise be unaware.

Facilitative Interventions
Cathartic – You help the other person to express and overcome thoughts or emotions that they have not previously confronted.
Catalytic – You help the other person reflect, discover and learn for him or herself. This helps him or her become more self-directed in making decisions, solving problems and so on.
Supportive – You build up the confidence of the other person by focusing on their competences, qualities and achievements.

John Heron’s Six Applications for Intervention

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Fun By Design

free play with friends

I started playing Free Play Softball in Cleveland Heights in 2002. It brought me back to left field for the first time in eighteen years. (I had spent the interim playing the only team sport I was ever really good at, volleyball and grass doubles volleyball.) Taking up softball again brought back memories of having previously formulated two-thirds of a lockdown outfield with Bob Buckeye as member of the Abernathy Special Collections Library ‘challenge’ team at Middlebury Collegebetween 1976-1984.

What changed for me between the ages of thirty and forty-eight? Slower. The hand-eye coordination always was my ace capability, but you have to get to the ball first. I never was a terrific hitter, although the scratch stats I’ve been keeping ever since the Hawken School intramural league (in 1971-1972,) indicate, at least, consistency. Yet, last year I figured out a missing piece of the craft of hitting and reeled off the hottest eight weeks of singles hitting ever, at the age of 58!

Today, opening day, I mention these personal tidbits because in ensuing recaps, as is usually the case, I will focus on being one of the key organizational developers of the weekly game. This is the oblique way of putting the following: I carry the equipment in my trunk, I store it over the winter, and, since 2004 I have been making out the line-ups with an eye on creating the conditions for equitable play. With all those tasks comes awesome obligations and presumptions of ritual and instrumental power. These features have long gone to my head, and to, especially my big now old Scots’ heart.

Everybody wins is my goal.

the odds

Learning to Play, Playing to Learn
A Case Study of a Ludic Learning Space

Alice and David A. Kolb
In this paper we propose an experiential learning framework for understanding how play can potentially create a unique ludic learning space conducive to deep learning. (full paper pdf)

excerpt:

History of the [Free Play Softball] league
In the mid 1970’s, Case Western Reserve University organized an intramural softball league from different departments and fraternity groups which have been competing ever since on a regular basis. The Organizational Behavior Department organized its own team made up of faculty, staff, students and family members. Overtime, the games became increasingly competitive and aggressive, and the OB team, which was much more inclusive when it came to its member composition (composed of men, women, and physically disabled individuals with varying skill levels) found itself at disadvantage playing against highly skilled, competitive, intramural teams.

Born out of this experience was the desire to create a league independent from the competitive intramural league, where anyone would come together to play just for the fun of the game. David, one of the founders of the game, remembers his motivation to start a different kind of league because “softball was too much fun to be left only to those who could play well.” In essence, those words summarized the vision for the pick up softball game and so the league was born in 1991. The league met every Sunday morning from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm at the baseball field of the University campus. The season began on the first Sunday after tax day in April and ended at the first snow in November. David provided the softball equipment and took it on himself to haul the balls, bats, gloves and bases and set up the field every Sunday morning. In the early years the term “league” may have been a bit grandiose for the game. The participation was random and sparse, not enough to make up two teams. Regardless of who or how many showed up, members played catch, hit balls, practiced fielding. Those for whom softball was a new experience learned the rules of the game as they played along. There was no designated coach or manager, or team captain for that matter; those who knew how to play helped those who were new to the game. As membership grew, and the converts regularly showed up, two teams were made up, sometimes five on each side, other times seven. Only after several years was the full complement of ten players on a side reached, and then only occasionally in the middle of the summer.

In 1995, the game was moved to a new softball field within a neighborhood park close to the University campus. Following the move to the new field membership began to grow not only in its size, but also in its diversity by gender, age, ethnicity, socio- economical background, and softball skill level. What had started out as a fairly homogeneous population of OB faculty, students, families and friends, began increasingly attracting local residents who found out about the game from different people and sources. Over time, new players joined from other counties, some of them taking a forty five minute bus ride to the ball field. Guided by the league’s founding vision, “fun softball for all,” everyone was welcome. In the fifteenth year of its existence, the league adopted “Free Play Softball League” as its official name, celebrating the special occasion with anniversary shirts and hats.

The Free Play ball field was in a grass park next to the city baseball fields. Unlike the impeccably manicured city league fields, the Free Play field was poorly maintained with no score board, lights or dugouts. The home plate area was particularly a mess, with weeds growing behind the base and the deep indentations in the batter’s box. The backstop was old and torn at the bottom. It was almost as if the Free Play league existed in the shadow of the city league, unnoticed by the city, or by the neighborhood community. The “league up on the hill,” as the Free Play members used to call the city league, was a highly competitive softball league, with die hard aggressive players pushing each other to their limits to win the game. As Lebron would say, pointing to the city fields, “over there, you get out there every single time to kick ass and beat the other team. It is not like our league.” In the Free Play league, we played a different kind of game.

Old-School-free-play

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Free Play Softball League: Ludic Aspirations & the Blue Men Group

Free-Play

Onset: Free Play Softball League winter blues.

FreePlay-November17

As it turned out, the gentle slope in the westward direction of Forest Hills (and its Field #8) allowed us to set up an impromptu diamond in the southeast corner and play in rather decent conditions for the last four weeks.

Last Sunday’s game may well have been our last of a season begun the SUnday after tax day. It was a notable Sunday for several reasons. First, for the second week in a row Jedi Matt launched a ball over 300 feet. This time I paced off the distance when I retrieved a second 300 foot shot into foul territory. Secondly, our cast of characters allowed us once again to play the minimum type of game with at least six to a side, a game in which we slice the outfield in half, give up the right fielder, a second baseman and some times a catcher, yet retain the first baseman to avoid the dreary game dubbed ‘pitcher’s mound.’ Finally, it was our fifth game in a row in which the home team had a chance to win in the bottom of the seventh.

Because I keep track of my own hitting, I can report we played 27 Sundays out of 30. We enjoyed this year the best weather and the most dynamic group relations of any season since I commenced my own participation in 2001.

Those features combine to knock out a data set about, this year and in a nutshell, ‘ludic aspirations, aging, and the interplay of masculinities.’ Ha!

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