Tag Archives: Freeplay Softball

A Debacle


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!)


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Loosing My Cool in the Cool


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



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


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!


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 pulls a single out of the hat

Rick swallows the yellow pill

Rick swallows the yellow pill


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.



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.


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.
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


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


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


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


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.



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)


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.


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


Onset: Free Play Softball League winter blues.


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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Free Play Alignment

Free Play

I asked by email for twelve and twelve came.

There’s more to it than that. First: MONSTER SLAM BY JEDI MATT! Estimates as to length of home run varied from 375 feet to a parsec; still, a top five mash for sure.

My research focus is on serendipity and this also means that I am ensnared on a good day with the problem of contingency as it happens in causal chains of human action. I told Dave B. as we departed the parking lot on Sunday that it was his own email to me earlier in the morning that compelled me to bring the equipment and learn whether or not we would gather enough Free Players together for a November game.


Mike covering second base, Matt on the base, Carman pitching.

Before his email I was ambivalent and leaning toward announcing by email that the field was too wet, the day too cold, and the season too aged, to play. Earlier in the week Francis, acting as our scout, reported the field would be playable on Sunday. Except this was in the middle of the week and Friday came a day-long, soaking, rain.


Matt running from first on Marc’s line drive.

The Dave’s email arrived in my in-box. I leaned the other way and shot out an email and stated I would be doing my darn duty and hoping we could play with enough forces to have a first baseman for each team. And, my colleagues made it so.

A close game, the fourth in a row, unfolded on a day past the ending of the real world series. Mark us down for one of best seasons whenever we’re playing in November. We tucked our improvised diamond in the southeast corner of the park and except for scattered miniature ponds in left field, the field was in fairly decent shape.

The ball was leaping off the bat. Monster blast! It came down to the last at bat. With one out I laced a shop into the gap, Stacey zoomed and grabbed it, darn kid! It didn’t matter we came up short, but everybody won the day.


Francis slapping a hit to score Matt.

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Epic Contest

Field #8

Vegans Astronomers

The Free Play Softball season continues apace. In previous posts I have been ‘complexifying’ thoughts about the meta-game and its management. Having abandoned one approach (cum experiment) three weeks ago, and with the help of veteran Francis, this week we had a heckuva game.

It obtained what I’ve suggested is the optimal result of any structural architecture, or in plain terms, is the goal of how teams are chosen. This goal is: a close game at the end and a game in which either team might win at the very end.

The norm is to stop at noon. Several times we’ve stopped with the score tied. This morning, we burst past noon to play two innings to ‘settle things.’

Innings played after the noon hour are for the Free Play paradigm extra innings. I recall in my twelve years only a couple of such games. This game today may have been the most epic of such extended games.

Previous musings.

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Whence It Flows

Mark Jaffe

ball leaving bat

“The ability to play is one of the principal criteria of mental health.” Ashley Montagu

Free Play October 6

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

(excerpt: Ode: Intimations of Immortality from
Recollections of Early Childhood
; William Wordsworth

After last week’s game departed, at its conclusion, from the paradiso, today’s game turned out to be a memorable, crisply played, highlight of the season. With the wind blowing at something like 10-20 knots in swirling gusts, the conditions made fielding fly balls and pitching strikes a challenge. Yet, the pitching was excellent and the outfielders collectively turned in as terrific a morning’s work as I can recall.

I moved to first base, my first and probably my best position, although I haven’t played it much since 1976! Still, with Francis at short stop and Vincent, all of eleven years old, at third, we coalesced into a vacuum cleaner. After the Juniors spotted us a three run lead at the end of the first, the teams played seven innings to a standoff in a 10-7 win for the Chiappas. Fittingly, Vincent snagged a rocketing liner in the hole at third, with his glove on the ground, to end the contest.

After last week, I would guess the temperature of individual enjoyment was high. Good for each and every one of us.

Note to self: there is hardly anything actually objective about our game. It is, after all, play, and thus it is riddled with the human. Oh, heck I’m with George Herbert Mead, there’s nothing objective whatsoever about Freeplay Softball’s social endeavor.

Distinction between propositions or judgments about the way things are and those about how people think or feel about them. The truth of objective claims is presumed to be entirely independent of the merely personal concerns reflected in subjective expressions, even though is difficult to draw the distinction precisely. The legitimacy of this distinction is open to serious question, since it is unclear whether (and how) any knowing subject can achieve genuine objectivity. Nevertheless, because objective truth is supposed to carry undeniable persuasive force, exaggerated claims of objectivity have often been used as tools of intellectual and social oppression. OBJECTIVITY (The Philosophy Pages)



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Free Play Reset

Then & Now





No matter the result, there’s always next week. The candids from last week do reflect how quickly the process of resetting follows on the outcome of our Sunday game.

On this blog, I’ve been going into my thought processes and expressing some of my analysis about the intersection of group desires with the format of a zero-sum kind of game, named Free Play Softball League.

With the support of longtime players, over decades we’ve tried to support a singular hope for competitive games, without triggering the Sunday softball game’s human thrust being mainly about one team winning. We were in the midst of a specific procedural experiment about how we pick-up and compose two different teams prior to play on Sunday mornings; ‘all this’ for the sake of reducing the number of hopeless routs, and mitigating the odd statistical outcome in which one particular player is on the winning team close to two-thirds of the time.

Now, it’s back to the drawing board. But, I will look forward to leaning into the my very smart mentors and discovering if there’s a new experiment we will embrace.

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A Record Everybody Helps Set

Free Play September 1st

Yesterday’s Free Play Softball game was epic. For starters, 27 players were on hand. Dave Kolb thought this set the record for turnout in September. It was the best turnout this season, and, the icing was the appearance of both new first timers and some returnees from past seasons.  We ended up with my ideal outcome, a one run game.

When is it beneficial, or necessary, to make the effort to learn more about what each group member’s reflections are about their own experience of the group?

Describe the kinds of Free Play softball games that you enjoy the most.

win win

phenomenological (and social-psychological/anthropological) reflections…


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Free Play String Continues




Tom W. 3 hits in 3 at bats; 3 fo’ 3


The Gang of Summer

I maintain the Free Play Softball ‘league’ is enjoying the greatest string of great weather I’ve seen in the twelve years I’ve been playing; that is playing as we do every Sunday at Field #8, Forest Hills Park, Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

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Bayesian Aesthetics, oh, and Play

Action Shot

On Sunday we enjoyed an iconic Free Play Softball League contest. Perfect weather greeted us. The home team won on what surely was the first walk-off two run, two RBI sacrifice fly. It was hit by John. He was making his first appearance in a Free Play game. I later learned what brought him to our game for the first time.

The game was iconic because it obtained almost all the implicit goals of our weekly softball games: the game was well played, very close, included some absurdist theatre, and showcased several individual feats. The photo below captures a bit of our happy collective mood in the game’s aftermath.

Free Play August 11

Given the “case” this particular game presented, I, with my researcher’s beanie set a kilter on my head, found the morning’s affair to be especially wondrous. We’ve been doing three experiments, one started last season, one started at the beginning of this season, and one started six weeks ago. Collective informal, ad hoc, social experiments aimed to identify possible avenues of change interest me a great deal. This past Sunday offered up a good, let us call it, ‘experimental circumstance.’

Experiment No. 1. Set in motion last season, and implemented by virtue of a voice vote, we began to call balls and strikes using a nifty affordance, a mat placed over the rubber home plate. It delineates a strike zone determined entirely as a matter of a pitch striking it on the fly. At the time it was a daring experiment because it attended to a problem only a few people felt was a problem: batters waiting for the perfect pitch under the old regimen, under which balls or strikes weren’t called. We have stuck with the experiment, having the catcher call the ball or strike. We have also gone back to the old routine under specific extreme circumstances having to do with wind velocity!

Experiment No. 2. Set in motion at the beginning of this season, and implemented willfully by me and several others, this experiment had a singular hypothesis. Should we actively promote the entertainment and sporting opportunity to our personal networks and on local bulletin boards, our numbers will increase. New players have arrived and stuck with us. We’ll see if our numbers stay robust as the weather becomes less attractive in the fall.

Experiment No. 3. Set in motion six weeks ago, and implemented without any input from the group, we have moved from having me determine the line-ups–a role I had for nine seasons–to me picking up teams school-yard style with Mark Jr. There were two basic goals, the primary one being to spread the talent around more equally, and, secondarily, to offset the advantage Mark jr. himself offers to the team he is placed on. This latter goal follows from his own tracking of the performance of his weekly, temporary team. By doing so he quantifies our results and certifies that his team wins 75% of the time.

(I’m tempted to say we’ve also been doing a meta or over-arching experiment that has something to do with giving me such a hand in the proceedings! As I mentioned to Kurt on Sunday, if I’m bossy, it’s the only day of the week I’m like a boss. Oddly, my imperial authority is partly rooted in the fact that I carry the collective equipment in the trunk of my Civic, and store all of it over the winter. He who trucks the crown and throne and battle gear. . .)

Because of this secondary goal of picking two teams, offsetting Mark Jr.’s track record, he and I have figured out a rough formula. My team is always the home team, and, I get the first pick, and, I start with longtime player Francis, and, in the fourth round Mark Jr. makes up for my extra player, and, finally, we may haggle over the last few picks.

Francis is the key gimme because he plays shortstop. Mark Jr. brings his own performative edge to his own team because he is a lock-down shortstop on our bumpy grassy infield. Others among us have tried their hand at shortstop, yet is has come down to Mark Jr. and plucky Francis.

This approach held until last week. Experiment No. 3 constitutes a series matching one person’s picks against a second person’s picks. In the experiment MArk and I determine our own line-ups, figure out in which slot players bat.


The 15-8 game was the only game where some players thought the distribution of players at the outset determined the outcome of the game. Mark Jr. has won 50% of his games. So far this experiment is progressing. Its most positive effect so far is twofold. First, players no longer feel my solitary, inept picking is ruining their chance to win. Second, when players express displeasure with the line-up, the blame is distributed to two possible culprits. The experiment has dramatically dampened second guessing about weekly competitive balance.

An Epic Fly

We play on a diamond with a screened backstop and no other fences. (Our field reminds me of the country fields I played on in Vermont decades ago.) As far as I know, this is different than the set-up for most of the (higher-than-our-modest level) slow pitch softball played year in and year out in our region. Next door to our favored wide open field #8 are four manicured, fenced, typical fields. On those fields, hard hit drives and flies can leave the field in classic home run fashion. On our field the hitter probably has to run out a home run. Outfielders, especially when the field is dry and hard play to prevent balls from skittering past them.

State Road Park

Parma’s State Road Park, one of upper level softball’s most storied diamonds

Sunday, John, a friend of Carman, shows up to play with us for the first time. He goes out to shortstop for our batting rounds. He looks experienced. He’s wearing actual baseball/softball jersey pants. He’s big. Then he takes a few practice swings, and the ball just soars off his bat.

I think to myself, “He’s pro.” This is my way of stating what was obvious to me, this is a high level player, one whose hitting approach is to launch the pitch over the fence. And, then I thought, here’s a guy who offsets Mark Jr.. And, this meant we might just do a straight back and forth choosing of players for the first time ever.

So we did. Francis got to play with Mark jr. and happily showed his mettle and versatility with one of the season’s most stellar outfield catches, a running chase-down of a falling bullet.

It came down to the last inning. The visitors took a 13-9 lead in the top half of the inning. In the bottom half, the home team grabbed three runs and John, the brawny newcomer stepped up to the dish with the bases juiced. Francis, in left field, was something like 350+ feet away. In a fenced-in softball field he would have been standing on the other side of the leftfield fence.

I don’t know squat about elite softball but I suspect top level players who come to the plate with the game on the line, one run behind, bases loaded, knowing any hit wins the game, nevertheless want to send the ball into a definitive orbit.

Mark Jr., for whatever reason, commanded his pitcher move to short, and he took the ball and stepped to the mound. Okay, he stepped to not a mound but, rather, to a rugged gash where a mound never existed. He threw some practice pitches. He took some grief from the home team. Tom, our elder was catching and warned Mark Jr. about “too much arc.”

Standing on the sideline, I understood this was a case of mano-y-mano, taking the game literally in one’s own hand, live by the sword or die by the sword, gamesmanship. Ha! Absurd! Crazed! It was a beautiful distillation of everything our free play game isn’t ordinarily about–yet our game can be about anything.

Then John blasted a 3-2 pitch in the direction of heaven itself. There’s no fence! I half expected the fly ball to sprout a parachute on the way down. The outfielder catches the ball and three runners tag up. It wasn’t even close. The tying run scores and the next, winning, run scores and would have beat any throw.

Game, but not match. John, you da man. (It turns out John is visiting us to get reps before autumn’s league and tournament league action.




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