Softball league scores win by just playing ball

Sunday coed games emphasize fun over serious competition


It's typical for teams to scout out their future opponents, in hopes of spotting weaknesses or the best players.

That's not what Michael Natishin, manager of the Bandits coed adult softball team, and his players are watching for.

"We like to get there early," Natishin said. "We can check out what we're going to be up against in the coming weeks [and see] things like who's got tempers and who doesn't."

Most of the 100 or so participants in the Sunday league, which began this week and runs into mid-July, aren't playing to improve their hitting or fielding skills. They just come to have a few laughs.

Natishin's Bandits posted a 4-6 record last year. But he doesn't care. In fact, when talking about the four wins, Natishin laughed.

"It's one of our most successful seasons," Natishin said.

He played a lot of rec baseball as a kid and participating in this league lets him remain on the field.

That's the chief reason many of the men and women in this league - which is run by the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks - take part.

Coed softball has been popular in the county for several years. Jeff Porter, the facility supervisor at Randazzo Park in Severn and Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans, said there are eight such leagues with about 900 people in Anne Arundel County this spring and summer.

Porter said more competitive coed leagues play Fridays. But this Sunday league is more about low-key contests, sitting and talking and laughing at what happens on the field.

"It's just the chance to get out there and spend time with friends," Porter said. "A lot of the teams are work teams or teams from church or businesses. It's a chance for them to relieve a little stress. And that's good for everybody."

Matthew Diluca is a Glen Burnie resident who manages the Mandarin Homes team, made up mostly of boyfriends and girlfriends.

In tougher leagues, managers draw up batting orders to put their best hitters toward the top. They also place their top fielders in positions like shortstop and third base, spots where they can best help the team.

But Diluca moves everyone around. He'll shift people's spots in the batting order and in the field.

"It helps out a lot," Diluca said. "I want everyone to have the opportunity to catch the ball or at least make a play on the ball."

Diluca agreed with Porter that relieving stress with friends is something he enjoys and looks forward to each week. "It's just fun, and I have a good time," Diluca said.

The men and women mix easily in this league because of the rules and the format. Each team needs to have five men and five women on the field during the game. Also, if the pitcher is male, the catcher must be female, and vice versa. Men and women also alternate at bat.

Jason Britton grew up in Anne Arundel County and played baseball throughout his years at South River High.

His wife loves softball, as does his stepson. In fact, Britton and his wife have helped coach their son's baseball and softball teams.

Britton's team - Koons Ford - has been in the league for about four years with mostly the same group of players the whole time: his relatives and others he picked up from other squads he has played on.

It won all 10 games last year and posted a 9-1 record in 2004, tying for first place both years.

"The men's team seems to be a little more competitive when it's all guys," Britton said. "The coed league seems to be for fun."

That's what Natishin always enjoys.

It's also why his "scouting" trips before games fit the league perfectly.

"We're not as competitive as other teams in the division," he said. "We like to just go out, meet new people, have fun and play ball."

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