Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Green Team Champions

The Team (most of us...)

The Championship Cup

The MVP Cup

The Video

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sometimes, it's easy being green

It began with a bunch of scrappy kids whose only hope was that they were made with bits of real panther. It was the dream on the breath of four seasons of kickball. It was the vision through the darkest of ill-lit innings. It was the hope of countless players and fans who dared not say it aloud.

Well, you can say it now. The dream is here. We’re wide awake, and our beloved Green Team has won the championship. Pause a moment. Let the words linger. We’re kickball champions.

I don’t think any of us will forget how that big red ball — just a dark gray ball, by that point in the night — looked as it hung in the air after Big kicked it. I don’t think we’ll forget the sound of it hitting that outfielder, invisible in the dark. And I know we’ll never forget the players and fans rushing the field when everyone realized that the ball hadn’t stayed in the fielder’s hands. When we realized we’d done it. When we realized we'd won.

And make no mistake, history was as thick as the clouds on Thursday. “I want retribution,” said longtime Green Team outfielder Amanda Hines before the game. She was referring to the Green Team’s first iteration, the Waltham league’s Middlesex Panthers. That team made it to the tournament championship, only to get shut out 4-0.

It wasn’t easy to pick up the pieces, and we weren’t always sure if the team would make it through. The Panthers regrouped in Somerville as Last Ones Picked for a season that struggled more than had been hoped. They tried again as the Strangers In The Alps, only to be upset early in the tournament. We’ve had to watch star players leave because of scheduling conflicts, we’ve had to console players through injuries, and we’ve had to gawk as players took their tops off or made out with each other as the tequila flowed like wine. It hasn’t always been easy.

And this season wasn’t always a cakewalk, either. Who can forget starting the semifinal game up 2-0 only to fall two runs behind and finally squeaking by in Special Tournament Overtime? Or starting the season 1-for-3, including a 9-run rout by a team that didn’t even know the rules?

Well, the pea-thick fog of history is lifted. As I write this, the sun is a crystal-clear blue and the cool breeze is gently licking the face of my metaphors like a kitten in an Oliver Stone production of Shakespeare. We can put Thursday’s win in the piggy bank and save it for a rainy day.

Then again, maybe this team will be its own rainy day. The Green Team’s heirs, Rainin’ Sideways, have started their season strong with two solid wins. East Cambridge is looking more competitive, but the Ollies are too. One or two players at the post-championship celebration last night even whispered of looking forward to a sweep — off the record of course. And it could happen. A dynasty has to start somewhere.

But sweep or no, repeat champions or no, the Green Team will always savor this night. The night they took their mountainous, last-picked, panther-concocted team and elevated it to the middle of the color spectrum.

Congratulations, Green Team. Dig a hole and go to town — you've earned it.

Yuval “take this ball and” Shavit is a special columnist for the Green Team and spiritual advisor to Boston.com’s Dan Shaughnessy.

Green Team Season Stats

“I’m extremely proud of my team’s offensive production this season,” said Captain Big. “Everybody contributed. I know every single player on the Green Team tried their best and supported their teammates. That’s all I asked for and everything I asked for. The Green Team are champions for this very reason.”

Season MVP Asian had the highest average on the season with .875, though there were a number of kickers who produced at over .800. As a team, the Green team batted well over .500.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Victory for Green Team!!!

The Green Team EnvironMentals played their hearts out on Thursday against the Blue Steel and were awarded with the Summer 2008 MA Patriot Championship.

The home team’s stands were full to see the Green Team’s defense hold against a strong Blue Steel offense. Virtually every player on the team had a chance to prove themselves and all did so.

Memorable plays on the field included Shoukie in the third inning, fielding a bouncing groundball and beating the runner to third for an important force out. Another saw Asian hold on to a tough throw to second and then, thinking quickly, turning to tag out the runner who had overrun her base, cherry picking another key out to stifle a Blue Steel rally.

It was a game of nerves as both teams struggled to find their offensive rhythm. The Green Team plated their first run in the first inning on a bunt RBI by Asian.

Blue Steel replied in the second with a run of their own, tying the game.

The score remained that way going into the fifth inning.

With the meat of the Blue Steel lineup upcoming, Pitcher Big managed to strike out the Steel’s captain and draw a foul out on the following kicker. After a pair of runners reached on well-placed bunts, Big was able to induce a flyout, giving the Green Team a chance to go for glory.

As darkness fell, Angela stepped to the plate and kicked a perfectly-placed bunt down the third base line. Yuval followed her with an equally-effective bunt, putting runners on first and second. Brennan then advanced the runners. Big was then able to take advantage of the darkness and Blue Steel’s centerfielder’s deep position and bring Angela home where the Green Team mobbed her.

After an arduous season, the Champion Green Team rocked Harvard Square as they had all season.

“I couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” gushed a tearful Captain Big. “The road was long and hard, but throughout it all we remained strong and confident. Above all, however, we had a great time and hope people had a great time alongside us.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

EnvironMentals survive nail biter, advance to 2008 Patriot Summer Division Finals

The Green Team advanced to the 2008 Patriot Summer Division Finals on Thursday with an extra-inning victory over the Gym Class Heroes.

“It’s a good feeling, being back in the Finals three seasons after our last appearance,” said third baseman BK. “Ever since our first season with the MiddleSex Panthers, we’ve been champing at the bit for another shot at the title. Now’s our chance.”

The EnvironMentals had to fight for their second chance, however, as the Gym Class Heroes proved to be more-than-worthy adversaries.

The Green Team beat a shorthanded Heroes squad handily during the regular season, so they came into Thursday’s match confident but knowing that the Maroon Middleschoolers weren’t just going to hand the Finals bid to them on a platter.

The game started well as the away Green Team managed to plate a pair of important runs in the top of the first inning with a well-placed infield single by Leigh.

The Green Team defense showed up as well, blanking the Heroes in the first inning and getting Big out of a jam in the second, allowing only one run.

In the third inning, however, the wheels fell off and the Heroes managed three big runs, taking a two-run lead going into the latter half of the game.

Though the situation looked bleak, the EnvironMentals never lost hope.

“My favorite part about our team is that they never shut up,” beamed Eric. “Our cheers are always positive and, for the younger fans, often educational!”

Despite the third inning lapse, the Green Team’s defense held strong in the fourth, which gave the offense a chance.

In the next inning that chance bore fruit. The Heroes’ defense left the door open just wide enough to allow two Green Team runs as Asian brought home BK and Leigh kicked in her third RBI of the game which turned out to be the biggest play of her kickball career.

When the Heroes’ pitcher forced a pop-out ending the top of the fifth, all the pressure landed squarely on the defense’s shoulders again.

Fans of the EnvironMentals quickly had their heart rates tested as a double and a walk put two runners on with no outs. The pitcher, however, redeemed the walk with a rare strike out.

But the play of the inning, that kept the Green Team’s hopes for kickball glory alive, went to Beastwood. With two outs and the Gym Class Heroes’ winning run only 20 steps away, the Beast came up big, going to ground after a spinning ball at first base. Then, in a move that seemed to involve him spontaneously mutating a second knee, he was able to get the force out at first in front of the speedy runner, ending the inning.

In the waning twilight, the team captains agreed to attempt to get a full tournament overtime inning in before calling the game and resorting to Rochambeau to decide the winner.

With the stragglers from the field two game watching on, the Heroes took the field under tournament overtime rules: Eight field players allowed (four girls and four boys) with the last out of the Top of the fifth starting at second base.

This left Pete in scoring position to start the sixth inning. The offense did what they needed to do and brought Pete home with Zach kicking the all-important RBI that gave the EnvironMentals the lead for the first time since the third inning.

As darkness set in, the EnvironMental’s hastily assembled eight man field arranged themselves with set shoulders and gritted teeth.

Pitching to a kicker the fielders almost couldn’t see Big gave up a bunt single, holding the ball for fear of allowing the runner at second to come around home. The Heroes, playing smart, then bunted the bases full with no outs.

A little bit of luck led to a four foul out. Then, coming back from being three balls behind the Heroes’ kicker, Big forced a pop up to second base. Normally a relatively easy play, the ball disappeared into the ink leaving every EnvironMental’s heart in their throat.

However, BK ranged in, found the ball through the darkness and made the catch, then had the presence of mind to step on second, leaving the overeager runner hung out to dry between second and third.

The game-ending double play was indicative of the quality of play and composure of spirit that represented Green Team kickball throughout the season. BK’s Game MVP award was well-deserved.

After an emotional and suprisingly-complicated post game cheer, the Green Team gratefully made their way to the bar.

“I’ve never been so spent after a kickball game,” Eric wheezed as he limped off the field.

“Hee hee ha ha hoo ha!” jibbered* Asian alongside him.

The only tarnish on what was a fairytale night was the knowledge that it was the last game in green for Leigh “Tangerine” (it’s a lifestyle) and Catie “FBJ”.

“We’re going to miss them,” sobbed Big. “They’re my favorite Tangerine and FBJ ever.”

Catie, at least, can rest secure in the knowledge that she’ll be getting her kickball fix on Wednesdays with the newly launched East Cambridge Raining Sideways.

Tangerine is expected to join the Ollies’ booster club and come to a game in East Cambridge equipped with a sign because kickball, like Tangerine, is a lifestyle.

* Translated from “Chinese-y”: “Yay! We won! We go to final!”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

EnvironMentals Rumble Into the Semi-Finals

The Green Team were fast out of the gate as the first five runners scored in the bottom of the first inning of Thursday’s playoff game. Two more in the second and some merciless defense were enough to put the Machine on their heels through the rest of the game.

The first-seed EnvironMentals were more than a match for the Spanking Machine with strong play and team spirit that Captain Eric is hoping will carry the team through to the finals.

“Today was a sign of what we can do when the pressure is on,” he gushed, clearly excited by the 80s cover band. “I think this is the team has what it takes. I’ve seen them put it together on the field and off. When a team gathers together to salute their underpants, you just know you’ve got something special.”

Game MVP Brow was equally excited but, having already had a half a glass of vodka tonic, was unintelligible by the time reporters could corner him at the bar.

The EnvironMentals are pumped for next week’s festivities as they look to close out the season with the championship in their hands. It’s a great time to be a Green Team fan.