Article #1: Q&A Session with team manager Andrew Wolan
Posted: June 27, 2009

Below is a transcript of a Q&A session following the announcement of the team's return for the 2009 season:

Q. Last season you lead the team to a 1-7 record. Why did the team resign you?

Because I bring something valuable to table: enthusiasm.

If this was a normal team, I would have a roster of experienced players that would appear at every practice session and at every game. This type of team is easy to coach.

However, my team is not like this. I don’t have all my best players at every game. I typically have to make due with whomever I can grab while figuring out a strategy to win. All the while I need to keep team moral strong so people don’t loose faith and quit. That’s where my enthusiasm comes in. True, I don’t have a great career record, but there is one fact that stands out: I’ve never forfeited a game.

Q. After the team’s last game you were traded to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. How were the ball games like in Japan?

Coach remembers the beer girls of Tokyo Dome, but not much else. (Wolan)
Well, the games I played in were held at the Tokyo Dome. The fans there are a lot different and more animated than those in the US. For example, here the most coordination you’ll see in a game is the wave. Over there, fans would start chanting the names of players in perfect unison. Not some but the entire stadium!

Another thing I remember are the beer girls. In the US, they have annoying venders that try to sell you beer and other foods at inflated prices. And they always seem to get in the way of the game. In Japan, what they do is strap a keg of beer to the backs of short women and have them walk around selling beer to everyone in cups. They don’t get in the way of the game, but they are a lot of fun to watch.

Q. What we wanted to know was how was it playing softball in Japan?

Oh that. I don’t remember. Next question.

Q. The league is classified as “non-competitive”. What is your definition of “non-competitive” and how will it affect the style of play?

My definition has not changed since 2008, but I will reiterate:

First of all, I don’t want people to confuse non-competitive with “no effort”. I’m not expecting a bunch of players that can play the game well... or even know how to play the game for that matter. Instead, I’m expecting a team that will give it their best and be willing to work on their game during the course of the season. If we do that, we’ll have a lot of fun and maybe even win a few games.

To me, non-competitive softball is all about a style of game play that focuses on the elements that make the game fun: hitting, fielding and base running. Competitive softball is about doing anything and everything to give your team an edge to win the game. In my experiences, this involves the “darker” elements of the game that makes it unenjoyable to all but the truly hardcore players. These include:

  • Cleatting the second baseman to avoid a double play.
  • Knocking over the catcher at home plate to score a run in close game.
  • Batters that intentionally draw walks against struggling pitchers instead of hitting the ball
  • Exploiting unconventional rules or obscure technicalities to gain an edge, even if the exploit is dirty, borderline illegal or just B.S. in nature.
  • Managers that dismiss “underperforming” players from a team, even if they were a positive influence.
  • Stretching an overthrow to first into an infield triple.
  • Ringers that far too talented for the league.
  • etc

  • Simply put, these elements drag the game away from its core and encourage an non-classy style of game play. Some elements even put people at risk of injury in the name of winning. Many find such tactics unattractive and discouraging to the casual player that just wants some fun.

    What I stress with new players is that league has an emphasis on “for fun”. If you can’t play well don’t worry as there will be others like you in this league. We can always work on your playing abilities during practice if you want.

    Q. Do you have a primary goal for this season?

    Yes, it’s to double the number wins from last season, or better.

    * Press erupts into laughter *

    Q. What do you plan on doing differently this season?

    Several things

    # 1 - No free outs
    Since there are no umpires in this league, all calls must be agreed upon by both teams. Problems sometimes arise on close plays, and that is understandable. However, I’ve seen players on our team award a call in the other team’s favor simply because the other team was complaining. Not only can this cost us game, but it can be discouraging to players that are trying to make close plays.

    This season, I want all decisions to yield a call to be made up to me. Often, the correct call can be made simply by querying the people on the field. If someone on the other team wants to yell, let them.

    # 2 - Base coaching personnel constancy at third
    We need to have some consistency here so base runners not only know whom to listen to, but so the base coach can learn the abilities of the played. Using different people for each game does not achieve this goal.

    # 3 - Have A-WOL coach first
    In the past, I would coach third base because I was on teams that had severe problem scoring base runners. This team does not have that problem. Since there are no umpires in this league, having a person that can accurately make calls at first will be a valuable service to both teams. Hence a reason for the move.

    Another reason for the move that since I have so much going on, I feel other players can do a better job at third than I.

    # 4 - Courtesy Belt enforcement
    When a weak hitter comes to the bat, it is regarded as bad sportsmanship for the outfielders to come into the infield. Regardless, a few teams did this last season, given them an unfair advantage in games. This season I intend to inform teams of this “unspoken” rule to help keep things fun for all.

    Q. What are your thoughts about being on the same team as you were the previous season for first time in career?

    This will be the first time in my career in which I will have the luxury of a roster with strong turn-over from the previous season. Instead of having to get familiar with a whole group of new players during the course of the season, I will already know the strengths of many of my players. This will eliminate much of the need for in-game “experimentation” and make my job a lot easier.

    Unfortunately, many of the team’s female players will not be returning, including the team’s starting second basewoman. This will undoubtedly be a point of concern. Fortunately, we did some recruiting during the pre-season and rounded-up a few prospects. They will need coaching through the course of the season, but that is something I’m willing to do

    Q. Reports are that the team got off to an early start this season in hopes of getting some practice in before the team’s first game. How did this go?

    We did the best we could internally to get things going, but it’s hard to drum-up enthusiasm when we can’t answer basic questions such as “when is our first game?”.

    Q. What are you thoughts about the playoffs?

    Playoffs? We’ll be in the playoffs this season, guaranteed. Else my name is not Flash Gordon.

    Q. Your name is not Flash Gordon.