The 16-inch National Championships are this weekend in the Chicago area. Everyone around town is very excited. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I've compiled a list of the 10 most regular personalities you will encounter in the 16-inch softball scene. Maybe not at the highest level where everyone is super serious, but if you've played in a house league before then you probably know where I'm coming from. For everyone else, consider it an education on camaraderie. This is the official mix:
1. The Guy Who Always Needs To Pitch: Pretty self explanatory. He could also be the one who set up the league, or facilitated multiple sign ups. This dude loves a summer softball schedule. The longer the better. He excels at darts, bowling, pool, bags and usually golf. Maybe a drinking problem. Always has a weed pen within arms reach. His dad played in the same park district league til his mid 50's before retiring after the kids left the house for college. This guy grew up with a garage littered with sports equipment including 16 inch Clinchers. Hasn't missed a week in 6 years. Been engaged the entire time to a girl from the neighborhood. Hits for a high average and respects the shit out of the game. There's no question who takes the mound. Some guys were just made for it.
2. The Guy Keeping The Book: We need to keep order, even at a 16-inch game. The book is an actual responsibility and there's always a guy who steps up to manage it. He generally has his shit together. He might even be dating somebody's sister. Classic good guy that often brings the beer. He works in finance but not one of the good finance jobs. Usually hitting 9th and always positive about it. Takes several pitches per plate appearance. Runs in a straight line on the baseball field. Prefers 2nd base or right field unless the team is fielding 11. Then he'll just be the EH (extra hitter). Much easier to keep the book if he doesn't have to play the field.
3. The Guy Who Shouldn't Be There: Not to be confused with The Guy Keeping The Book. This one just straight up has no business being on the softball diamond. He's wearing low cut Reeboks and a t-shirt with a pocket. He goes to a lot of concerts, comes from money and has absolutely zero interest in the fruits of competition. As such he has slowly evolved into the worst intramural teammate in the group chat. But he's a sweet dude and throws big parties and has been in the crew forever so he gets a spot on the team. Even though he just had ate a xanax bar and is hitting .210 for his career, you hit him 7th and hope he makes it home okay. Worth noting that despite not really knowing anything about the game, or ever really showing any interest in the outcome, he's the first guy to pay his share of league dues. Fastest venmo fingers on the team.
4. The Guy Who Dominated HS Football And Is Still Really Good At Shit: The cliche about Glory Days is true for a lot but not really this guy. He was awesome at shit as a kid. Awesome at stuff in HS. And he's still awesome as a 30 year-old playing 3rd base at Hamlin park on a Thursday night. At all stages in this guy's life, he has absolutely fucking destroyed the competition. 16-inch is just a newer frontier. The opposing pitcher routinely tells the outfielders to take a couple extra steps back when this guy comes up then gets extra pissed when he still hits it over their heads. His name is something like Frank or Mitch or Bobby or some shit that sounds like the uncle who gets too carried away. This guy is clearly the best player on the team and without him you'd score 3-5 less runs per game. During the day he makes cold calls and drinks NOS energy by the quart. His on/off girlfriend says he looks great in a backwards hat. Drives a used Jeep Cherokee and cranks Dave Matthews. You don't have to ask and I don't have to tell you but he's from Mt. Greenwood and went to St. Rita.
5. The Guy Who Is Way Too Fast: He's always been the super fast guy in his group of friends. Kind of a Try Hard to play against. Loves hustling it down the line and clapping really loud when he beats out yet another infield single in a Tuesday night recreational softball league. He tells his roommates how many runs he scored when he gets home. He wears ironic jerseys like a Kyle Korver Jazz and probably has some kind of chain around his neck. Other hobbies include cocaine and capital markets. He hits lead off and plays center field, which is made evident through routine mid-game instagram posts. His girlfriend has lip injections and unnatural eyelashes and is named Gabby. Even so he still cracks it 4 times a day and never leaves the house without a double spritz of cologne.
6. The Guy Who Always Has Cigs: Plays shortstop but looks like a bullpen catcher. Soft hands with limited range. Probably the first one on the team to have kids. Been working for his dad's manufacturing company for like 14 years even though you graduated college like 7 years ago. Facial hair has been coming in since he was 11. And with this maturity comes an insatiable thirst for Marlboro Lights and an even greater need to share them with his teammates. ANYBODY NEED A CIG? Those words ring out like Vatican church bells every time this guy opens a cold beer. The only things more reliable are his infield play and his ability to hit the right-center gap.
7. The Guy Who Carries The Balls & Bats: Quiet guy who got stuck with the balls and bats at the end of the first season and has been carrying them in his Chevy Malibu trunk ever since. He doesn't even remember how it happened. But he's the bats & balls guy and that means he has to be at the game this week. This guy usually has the longest and steadiest relationship. A high school crush turned full fledged wife, and he loves time away from her. So he leverages his responsibility (BABE I'M BASICALLY THE ONLY MARRIED GUY) into the weekly task that requires him to be at the field every week. It's a genius move and he never complains about it. Guy just loves having the equipment. He plays short center and hits 8th while never once arguing with any teammate. He just wants to hang out and play some softball with the boys.
8. The Career Oriented Guy Who Misses Every Other Week & Always Shows Up At 1st Pitch: He just can't work up the courage to back out of the roster. It's been going on for a couple years. He got promoted in 2018 and nobody gave a fuck. Again in 2020 = yawn. Now he's looking at senior managing director in the next 36-48 months and that's why he's running late to the 7pm. Truthfully, nobody gives a fuck about his excuse because they're so mad. He's the regular first baseman and it's a pain in the ass to find another dude to play the corner. Nobody wants a broken hand or finger or any of that shit. Career guy is really risking it for everyone else when he backs out last second. No worse feeling than standing around the dugout looking at your friends in the eyes and seeing who will step up to play first base under pressure. Fuck that position. There's a sincere 10-15% chance you go to the emergency room for every 8 games you play 1st base in this game. Career Guy is too focused on himself to interpret the data but on the bright side, he feels so guilty about his lack of commitment that he routinely comes with 2 cases of beer and an extra pack of cigs.
9. The Guy Who Only Plays Catcher: Heavy set big fella that is downright irreplaceable. Has a funny nickname like Turkey Sandwich or some shit. Hits dead last and runs the 40 in about 9 seconds. Dude loves hookers but not nearly as much as getting loaded with the boys on a weekday night. He wears a steady cycle of the fraternity barcrawl t-shirts and a pair of football cleats he got from Dick's on sale. He makes great small talk with the opposing team and is borderline friends with the umpire. You've only seen him waddle. He has trouble hitting the ball out of the infield. Every time he gets on 1st base, the boys go wild while the other team gets embarrassed. Texas leaguers to right center and a great sense of humor. Guy Who Only Plays Catcher could also be coming off devastating ACL surgery**
10. The Guy Who Works With One Of These Guys: I'm not saying the 9 guys above are on every team. Like I know there's some exceptions and crossovers, so don't confuse this as an absolute authority. That said, every single team on earth has a guy who works with one of the other guys. He's very good and originally from maybe Iowa or Central IL or somewhere else 3 hours away. Guy hits absolute fucking bombs. He doesn't say much while always being on time and seamlessly taking over full time let field duties this season. You'd be closer with him if he wasn't some guy your buddy works with. 5 years from now you'll be inseparable best friends but for now he's just the guy who went to a small D3 school you've never heard of and works on the same sales team as one of your closest friends. For now he's a great softball player. And forever, these guys are on every fucking roster across town.
Who else did I miss? The med-student? The guy who is always hurt? The one who brings his girlfriend even though she looks like the catcher? Tell me in the comment section below.