You’ve Got a Friend in the Alternative Softball League

Making friends and havin' babies

2008 champs
2008 champs

There has always been something about SXSW for me that has been hard to stomach. I had thought it was the onset of rush hour all day with the influx of yet more people who have places to go but have no idea where they are. I had thought it was the shuffling hordes of drunken and hungover zombies – the wristband is the sign that they’ve turned – moaning for water and a bathroom. I had thought it was we “townies” working our asses off like chain gangs and being priced out and crowded out of the fun. I didn’t quite know what it was until this year.

The annual invasion of Austin and the siege of SXSW pushes us to the limits of our friendliness and hospitality. I want to vomit for typing this ham-fisted statement, but Austin is populated by some of the nicest people you could find anywhere. They are genuinely friendly people who genuinely want you to have a good time. And it makes the city easy to enjoy.

I’ve never been completely comfortable with telling people I live in “the live music capital of the world.” I involuntarily roll me eyes every time I say it. I think I’d rather tell them, “I’m from Austin, where you always find a friend.” (Even if it is just for an afternoon.)

I don’t think I would have stumbled upon this if I hadn’t enjoyed SXSW myself with a little help from my friends in the Alternative Softball League (and PJ Harvey).

Last Thursday, BookPeople first basewoman Jennifer Morris (and my former teammate) opened her house up for a free day of music and beer, where I also ran into BookPeople captain Mandy Brooks. I also stumbled upon New Brohemia third baseman Brian Campbell and yet another BookPerson Summer Burton. On Friday, I watched basketball with more BookPeople at the Tavern, where I found Chronicle shortstop Shawn Badgley.

On Saturday, I saw PJ Harvey at Stubb’s with the help of Wheatsville utility infielder Trae Branham. It was the closest thing I’ve had to a religious experience watching live music, only made better by Doug Freeman of The Austin Chronicle buying me a Lone Star tallboy and New Brohemia captain Joe Holzheimer greeting me with an ear-to-ear grin, a hug and one of the best introductions I’ve ever had. During my nightcap at Mug Shots, I ran into Nick Schuley, captain of the C3 Presents squad.

These people are the reason I’ve been wearing my striped softball socks for a week. I can’t wait to see them again on Sunday, March 29, during the 2009 Alternative Softball League Opening Day triple-header at the Krieg Softball Complex.

In a rematch of the 2008 ASL Championship game BookPeople will hope to better The Austin Chronicle, which won that game 11-9. Meanwhile, in a couple newcomer matches, The Brentwood Donkeys play SXSW and Wheatsville Food Co-op battles The Nihilist Fucking Eagles of New Brohemia. (BookPeople and Wheatsville will scrimmage Friday night.)

This year, the ASL has grown from five teams to 10 with two divisions and a 13-game season. The Austin Chronicle, BookPeople, Emo’s Lounge, KOOP Radio, and Waterloo Records are joined by The Brentwood Donkeys, C3 Presents, New Brohemia, SXSW, and Wheatsville Food Co-op. The divisions look something like this:

ASL North (Uptown)
The Austin Chronicle
BookPeople
KOOP Radio
SXSW
Wheatsville Food Co-op

ASL South (Downtown)
The Brentwood Donkeys
C3 Presents
Emo’s Lounge
New Brohemia
Waterloo Records

While it may seem that this is serious business – we have standings and divisions and some of us (me) religiously gather and study statistics – I think the ASL is true to the spirit of softball. William H. Young and Nancy K. Young call it “a cheap, outdoor diversion for everyone, regardless of abilities” and “one of the most open and democratic sports ever to achieve such remarkable popularity” (The Great Depression in America: A Cultural Encyclopedia).

ASL Commissioner Mark Fagan likes to tell the story of the Chronicle’s Logan Youree, who started working at the Chronicle last year. He could have suffered for months in the alienating anonymity of the FNG (Fucking New Guy) status, walking around the office like “[a corpse] waiting to be returned to the grave” (to borrow from George Orwell).

But he immediately joined the Chronicle softball team. He isn’t the best athlete in the league, but you can hear in his teammates' voices that they’re glad he works with them in the office and on the field. And he rose to the grand position of Unofficial Alternative Softball League Photographer.

And there are also the cross-town connections the ASL affords someone. The ASL was born out of the Unofficial Shadow League of Local Businesses, which was made of the people on the front lines of keeping this place weird. The softball diamond is the place where these fine folks – most of whom have service jobs – can meet without the roadblock of a cash register and find something in common, even if it is just softball war stories.

I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention one of the most dramatic products of the season last year: The Alternative Softball League is having a baby. OK, two ASL players are having a baby. But it wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t met on the field.

So come on out to an ASL ballgame. This season is pregnant with possibilities.

You can keep up with all the games, trash talk, and your favorite teams and players through the league’s MySpace page at www.myspace.com/alternativesoftballleague.

Follow the ASL on Twitter at www.twitter.com/altsoftball.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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More Alternative Softball League
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