Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rectangular Softball - or is it Political Football?

At last night's city council meeting, the McIntire Park Master Plan shows replacing the two softball fields with two rectangular fields (soccer fields I suppose) as part of the reworking of the park to accommodate the YMCA facility and expanded parking. The Meadow Creek Parkway project is planned to go directly through the softball field just north of Melbourne Road. Three softball field heading into other uses. What is a softball player to do? ADAPT!

Having attended college and graduate school in Cambridge Massachusetts, I became familiar with Boston Red Sox baseball games and oddly-shaped Fenway Park (unlike symmetrical Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati where I lived between undergraduate and graduate school for one baseball season). If the pros can adapt baseball to oddly-shaped spaces, certainly Charlottesville's softball players can too (if Parks and Recreation will allow rectangular softball to be played on these fields). I couldn't figure out how to rotate and overlap the graphical images I clipped from the internet, but I am sure you can figure out several possible designs for playing rectangular softball on the proposed McIntire Park fields - some requiring modifications to game of softball as we know it. Surely one could put home base in a corner of the rectangular field or perhaps have home base where the soccer goal is located to have 300 feet of open field in center field.

In college and graduate school, I played pick-up softball and possibly even some intramural softball on fields of irregular dimensions many times. Of course, I never played on a very competitive team or league, but I have fond memories of playing the games no matter how the field was shaped.

My Research: I went online to find softball and soccer field dimensions and see how difficult it would be to fit a proper softball field into the rectangular field likely to be constructed at McIntire Park.

A softball field has a distance from home base to the edge of the outfield at least 190 feet and up to a typical distance of 225 feet (depending on league requirements. The playing field for U.S. soccer is 210 feet by 300 feet with additional space needed to accommodate the goals and sufficient out-of-bounds space to throw-in the ball from the sidelines, etc. So it seems that if these dimensions are correct, one could actually put a proper softball field on a full-size soccer field.

If smaller rectangular fields are constructed at McIntire Park, I still think one could have good fun playing casual softball (like all of the games I ever played in) on an 'unofficial' field. Of course, wear and tear on the grass field (I hope Astroturf is not even being considered) where base paths would be creates challenges to field maintenance, but I also remember watching professional football and soccer games in the era of shared stadiums being played on professional baseball fields with the bare base paths on the otherwise grass covered field.

So, softball fans, perhaps you can get your teams and clubs to challenge the Rhodeside & Harwell designers who presented the Master Plan to council to design playing fields to best accommodate soccer, lacrosse, touch-football, and rectangular softball. After all, would the shape of field have that much impact on the annual Democrats vs. Republicans softball game traditionally played in McIntire Park. I have never played or watched that game, but if it were to be Charlottesville's first rectangular softball game, I would definitely plan to go (and blog about it, too). Maybe such a game could inspire some both Democrats and Republicans to find new political creativity in managing the challenging issues in our community, too.


Stormy said...

Softball players around Charlottesville already adapt. PVCC has a field with a small left field and a tall fence. I think the Park at UVA does something similar as to what you're proposing - at least for the law school tournament - in terms of the all-grass fields. Is the county considering adding softball fields to upcoming projects at places like Old Trail and Biscuit Run where parks have been proffered? What about adding lights (and six or nine or twelve games each night) at Towe and Washington Parks?

There are plenty of accommodations for softball players, if our leaders are willing to consider all options.

Sean Tubbs said...

How does one play rectangular softball? I'm not sure, but it sounds a variation of kickball we used to play in middle school. We played it in a rectangular gymnasium, which meant the bases were on all four corners. The game, though, had fun rules, such as multiple runners being allowed on all bases.