A few hours before the sun set on the Mount Vernon softball field Aug. 16, Dan Hodgson, an assistant coach on GW’s baseball team, hit a soaring home run over the left field fence and began to round the bases. After tapping the first base bag, Hodgson made the turn to second base, but soon exited the base path, rerouted and headed toward the center field fence.
The ball had come to a stop in the road outside the field and, per the rules of GW’s intramural summer softball league, Hodgson had to go retrieve his own home run ball.
During the summer, when most of GW’s population heads north and poolside, employees remain desk-bound. Interns and tour groups come and go, but University Police Department, Internet Security Systems and housing staffs, among others, stay through the dog days of a District summer. To expel energy and socialize in a change of scenery, departments form softball teams.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie out here. We don’t get to see each other a lot and if we do, we don’t get to just have fun very often,” said Aubre Jones, GW’s director of intramural sports and Hodgson’s teammate on league-champion Zero Athletic Ability, made up of members of the athletic department.
Zero Athletic Ability is one of twelve teams in the league. In the championship game, Hodgson, Jones and their teammates beat the Terra-Cotta Warriors, a team comprised mostly of employees of GW’s Internet Security Systems staff and curiously named after the 2200-year old Chinese statues.
The age of participants ranges from teenage students to middle-aged employees and ability levels vary just as much. One would think that Hodgson’s baseball background gives his team an unfair advantage, but Jones disgrees.
“They’re two completely different games,” Jones said with a wink.
Brad Bower, 48, plays first base for Ability and enjoys getting a chance to relax at the games, something he is rarely able to do in his role as Director of Sports Information, where he is men’s basketball coach Karl Hobbs’s spokesperson.
“At my age, I’m just glad to be out here,” Bower said.
The players joke around, but they still want to win. An hour before the championship game, the Warriors – whose only loss of the eight-game season came against Zero Athletic Ability – were already on the field taking batting practice in their custom orange uniforms.
“Who wants free pizza?” shouted Warrior co-captain Justin Mass in a half-joking attempt to motivate his team.
The speech was unsuccessful, as the next ground ball rolled up the arm of the third-basewoman, who covered her face with her glove. The Warriors, plagued by Hodgson’s three home-runs, went on to lose 20-4.
Down double-digits in the fifth inning and sensing the rapidly approaching end to their season, the Warriors took a moment to butcher “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” arm-in-arm. As nice as a championship would have been, the game’s score was far from the forefront of their collective mind.
“We can hold our heads up high,” said Warriors co-captain Alan Tullis, also half-joking, to his team after the game. “We had a good season, but now let’s go to the bar!”
“What about the free burgers (on the Mount Vernon deck?),” asked a teammate.
“Okay, let’s go have free burgers.but then the bars!” he said.
Softball, burgers and beer-a perfect ending to a long, hot, humid summer in the District. Poolside never sounded so unappealing.