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2014 Season Wraps : Tournament Edition

Wow. Sorry to take so long to post here and officially wrap up the season… I’m not used to the season finishing in July to be honest but I’m guessing it’s a strange sensation for all of us. More on that in a bit…

One way or another, the season came to an end on a beautiful sunny day under blue skies without a hitch, back on Upper Hutchinson where I know the majority of us like it best. Pictures have posted to the League’s Facebook page if you’re connected to that… I just spent a couple minutes looking for that link that provides access for those not on Facebook… but unfortunately, yet another FB redesign has taken that portion of the interface into the abyss, couldn’t find it.

On the Diamonds, the day was owned by Clune Construction as they set out to cash in that #1 regular season seed… things got nip and tuck for them a couple times on the road to the Championship Game… first against Gettys Group in pool play where they squeezed out a 3-2 victory and from what I heard, the winning run came right near the end of that game… from there they cruised past Power Construction 8-4 on their way to the Final Four where the Ruder Group gave them another run for their money… but once all the dust settled, an 8-7 victory to advance to the Championship…

On the other end of Upper Hutchinson, the Reservoir Dogz moved through pool play with not a lot of hype… 6-1, 9-3, 6-2 to advance to a Final Four game with Perkins&Will who were part of the wildest bracket this year that saw all 4 teams at 1-1 heading into the 1 o’clock hour, P&W emerged though with a victory in their last game of pool play with an 8-3 win over #3 seed Old’Stylin’… in that Final Four game though, the Dogz jumped out with 4 in the 1st and then just defended from there with an eventual 6-2 victory… and to be honest, we were hoping for a Ruder Group win solely because we didn’t want to cross Upper Hutch for the last game… but that hope was vanquished as we packed up to play the finale on Clune’s home Diamond 4.

Having been involved in the Championship Game… I wish I had a better explanation for what happened with my team… but the 15-4 rout we were about to endure really came down to two things… first, we simply couldn’t stop hitting the ball in the air… of our 21 outs in the game, we flew out or popped up 12 times… 9 of those came in innings 2-6 where we put up just 3 scattered hits and went down in order twice… so in our quest to repeat, our mojo was gone, one game before the finish line… but second, and more potently… Clune absolutely crushed the ball in that Championship Game… 4 home runs by my count and I can’t say I can ever remember looking at the backsides of my outfielders that many times in a single game… a truly impressive offensive show by our 2014 Design League Champions Clune Construction

Some Notes on the Format Change

I’ll start by saying that the following opinions are from my own perspective… I’d be really interested in hearing comments/opinions from all of our Captains as well as the members of any team… you could leave those in the comments section of this post which is what I would prefer as then they’re a part of the public record… but if you’d rather email me directly, that’s fine too… do that here.

As far as CONS go…

  • On a front that’s correctable, I need to be more on top of things organizationally. I should have predicted that I suppose but the process I’ve developed over 14 years now… was upended… I dropped a couple balls, most notably not doing the picture posting and annotation in a timely manner… but this particular con is very to fix….
  • Once Triple-Header Saturday arrived followed by straight double-headers… teams were no longer able to borrow players from other teams when they were short… this was one that was anticipated, a con that’s unavoidable under the format however…
  • If your team was affected by a roster shortfall on a double-header day, you had 2 games impacted as opposed to 1… how I dealt with this as a Captain was that I established my network of subs early on… got them on the mail list and kept in communication… last day of the regular season I found the Dogz short of (10) for the first time ever… but we got through it and came out the other side… but it is an issue that requires effort to keep managed… so I thank all of you for your commitment on this front, we only had one team forfeit a double-header this season. Next season I plan to up the leagues forfeit threshold from 2 to 3… we still want ZERO forfeits… but I don’t want teams feeling like despite their best efforts, if something goes wrong on a double-header game day that their residency in the CDL is in jeopardy.
  • I have a certain sense of loss that we won’t be playing into the Fall… but I believe that’s mostly coming from familiarity… it’s what we’ve always done… to be honest, this melancholy is easily outweighed by my own happiness to not have to deal with scheduling post-Lollapalooza games anymore… that was such a tedious pain in the ass that it truly had me asking myself whether or not I wanted to continue to do it…

So now the PROS…

  • Again, organizationally, I can’t impress enough on everyone how much easier this season was to organize than the 2 that preceded it… once Perry’s Tent came to Upper Hutch over Lollapalooza… that was it… the fork in the road… in my opinion we initially chose the wrong direction but now we’ve returned and gotten ourselves back on the tracks… this for however long the current realities of playing softball in Grant Park stay the same. Many thanks on this front to Marie, our Park District rep, without her none of it would have been possible.
  • Triple-Header Saturday (Ed Misovic’s idea) was a stroke of genius… as good as it is under the current format to get 3 games in the books for all 16 of our teams in a single morning/afternoon… taking the vast majority of the team and captain pictures at one time saved me so much time I can’t even really tell you how much… but a task that used to span weeks and weeks of coordinating with individual teams… and then adding those pictures to the site piece meal as I went with corresponding individual annotation emails… has been replaced by just four easy steps; take the pictures… format the pictures… post the pictures… get them annotated… a process that when done in assembly line fashion is infinitely quicker… As mentioned above, I didn’t post them this season in a timely manner… but that was simply due to stuff I personally had going on in June and not being prepared for the task… it’ll be different next year.
  • For all those who drive, the new format saves you some money on parking… 9 or 10 game days as compared with 15 or 16 in past seasons… also to note here is that fewer game days means less organizational effort needs to be made by Captains… and for all those who play on teams within the Design League there are fewer days to coordinate personal schedules around.
  • I personally think it’s fun to play double-headers.
  • And the opposite end of the sense of loss over no more Fall games here for a while… would be the fact that we’re done by July 21st… my Thursdays out here in the northwest suburbs are mine again with 5 weeks to go until school starts… perhaps some of you have your own pleasures over being done early.

Considering the scenario at Grant Park for playing softball here in the Lolla era… and that we all want to keep our (non-traditional) 15-game season as well as stay in Grant Park… I’m completely convinced that this years format is THE BEST possible solution… it’s one that was fleshed out between our rep and myself and it pretty much went off without a hitch…

During the season it felt like weather shut us down a lot of the time… this also due to field maintenance issues that were addressed as much as they could be… the thing for everyone to know though moving forward is that the amount of resources allocated to Grant Park and the maintenance of softball diamonds is pretty much out of my control because truth be told… even Marie could only do so much with the man-power afforded her… responsibility here truly lies with the higher-ups and how to best get through to them is anyone’s guess… that said, the 2 double-header makeup Thursdays after the 4th pretty much covered the games missed and in the end we played the typical 13 of 15 games…

At the end of the day and assuming nothing changes at Grant Park between now and the 2015 season such as light towers being installed… I can say that my desire will be to repeat things pretty much the same way they happened this season… so much so that you could look at the game days from this year and assume the same exact schedule next year, just shifted up a day… pending Park District approval of course… so for any reason you think now that your team wouldn’t want to participate again under those circumstances… telling me about that sooner rather than later would be very much appreciated on my end… but hopefully all 16 teams will be returning.

So there you have it… the Design League’s 14th Season at Grant Park is in the books with a big congratulations to Clune Construction, now 4-time champions in the recorded era.

Enjoy the rest of your summers and if not before, I’ll talk to you next Spring.

 

Week 8/9 Wrap-Up

As mentioned previously, from my perspective, this years format is working out smashingly… having had a few conversations over these past weeks where some of you have mentioned missing Upper Hutchinson and our 4 diamond home up there for so many years… know that if the day were to ever come where lights were installed on Upper, I’ve been promised that Thursday nights would revert back to us up there… that’s the dream… but in the meantime, we need 8 diamonds to make our format work and that’s only possible on Lower…

The primary issue this years format is probably causing most of you… is one of individual team attendance… for instance, we have a guy that went on vacation Wednesday before last and returned today… instead of having missed 2 games as would have been the case in all previous seasons… he missed a whopping 6 games, more than a third of the season… makes things tricky… if you’re missing a good player on triple-header Saturday, you’re missing him/her for 3 games instead of just 1… something to perhaps Captain differently in seasons to come or even moving forward this season… I’m considering adding a 14th player to the Dogz roster for instance where we’ve always carried no more than 13, gives me a better chance of staying out of the lurch…

On the diamonds last night in the Design League’s first ever double-header night in Grant Park… we saw 5 of 16 teams sweep… meeting the Reservoir Dogz in a battle for the 1-seed, Clune emerged with the 8-7 win on a walk-off in the bottom of 7 with a neon ball and no light to speak of… Clune off to the 7-0 start… Old Stylin’ showed that they once again have some meddle this season sweeping their 2 games as they flip-flopped with 1-1 Perkins & Will into the 3 seed and into a records tie with the Dogz… and they’ll get to play the Dogz next Thursday with a chance to climb yet another rung up the ladder…

Ruder Group bounced back from a disappointing Triple-Header Saturday to take both of their games yesterday as well jumping all the way back up to the 5 seed… as did VOA with wins over P&W and SOM to move into the 6th seed… and last but never least, SCB… another team I feel capable of big things bounced back from dropping 3 as well last Saturday to take both of their games over theBuzz and Thornton-Tomasetti

Also wanted everyone to know that I noticed all the late games playing into darkness and I also noticed that no games played on our 8 diamonds prior to our 6:30 start… I’ve got an email in to CPD asking whether we can expect the same situation moving forward… if so, we might slide starting times back to 6 or 6:15… if not, we’re going to have to focus harder on starting those earlier games more promptly… while I need to do a better job of blowing the horn on time… as we need to get those second games started sooner. By my perception 8:40 last night seemed to be the cut-off line… a work in progress though, so we’ll work together to improve that…

All for now… same deal next Thursday… and please remember to start fleshing out your rosters for the July 19th Tournament as well as the July 20th rain date… both scheduled for Upper Hutchinson…

Have great weekends…

Week 5/6/7 Wrap-Up

For my money, I have not one single complaint about how the Design League’s 1st Annual Triple-Header Saturday unfolded… it transformed a sputtering May into a month where we got 5 games in the books before the calendar rolled to June… if anything, I kick myself for not having happened upon the idea 2 years ago… before all that pain… but all credit goes to Ed Mirkavic of theBuzz for suggesting the idea… and the additional potential I saw in Ed’s idea to use the day to capture ALL team pictures at one time… has literally turned 10 hours of tedious work into just a couple hours of enjoyable editing…

Most special thanks to our Park District Rep Marie who has always been a great partner, without her this format we’re taking out for a spin this season would not have been possible… her offer of the 4 additional diamonds as they became available to her truly allowed the day to breath and made all games much more stress-free and fun to play… at least that’s what I saw around the diamonds… if you had a different experience, please feel encouraged to put it to words in the comments section of this post…

Now that the day has come and gone and I’ve tallied the results, it would appear some further nuance has been introduced to our Design League traditions… mainly, you need to have a good roster turnout for Triple-Header Saturday… if you don’t, it affects 3 games instead of just one as it would have in past seasons… this caused major stumbles for a handful of teams while more unlikely suspects appeared to benefit… one way or another, the Leaderboard feels different than it has in the past after 5 game weeks… and we move now to the double-header portion of our season where the same dynamic is in effect, albeit over only 2 games any given Thursday… but all the same, Captains need to focus more closely on making sure they’re covered for players… I saw more teams taking automatic outs for the lack of 2 girls than is typical at all… that just another observation…

One of my favorite aspects of the day was not having to stick to a rigid clock… playing games all the way to their conclusion regardless was nice and relaxed. Three games went to extra-innings, one went 8, another 9 and the very last game to finish Saturday was an epic battle for the ages where SOM eventually bested Thornton-Tomasetti 11-9 after a full 11 innings…

The second to last game to finish was Old Stylin’ scoring 6 runs after 2 outs in the top 7th to tie the game against Dobbins Group… and then later in the bottom of the 9th, after scoring 1 to take the lead, thwarted Dobbins final push ending the game with a double-play where out 1 was a 4-throw rundown between home and 3rd.. and out 2 was a quick sidearm throw to 3rd to get the trail runner who was trying to advance there while the rundown was happening… absolutely amazing finish to that one that I was lucky enough to witness live.

The day saw 6 games decided by one run… any of you have a game summary for an interesting game you were a part of that everyone might like… please, please post it to the comments.

Please start readying your rosters now for our first of at least 5 double-header Thursdays which will commence later this week on the 5th… games will return to the rigid clock, I’m going to go with exactly an hour for the first games this week at 6:30 and then monitor how the light situation feels at 8:30 near the ends of the second games… we’ll adjust from there moving forward.

Also, and an email will be going out to Captains soon specifically regarding the fact that this years Tournament is scheduled for a Saturday (07/19) and the Tournament Rain Date is scheduled for the very next day on a Sunday (07/20)… there’s a reason for this which I will explain… but I’m including it here now so that you can alert your players with as much notice as possible.

Last but not least, sincere thanks to all of you for making Triple-Header Saturday the success that it was. Everyone showed up close to on-time… you all queued up for pictures perfectly… we didn’t have nary the argument, that I heard about anyway… an all around great day… thanks to one and all.

 

 

Week 4 Wrap-Up, Triple-Header Preview

So we’re off and running on the 2014 Season checking out this new format, which from my perspective is looking good… we started the season with open dates to make up a possible (4) rain-outs… as it stands now we’ve had two… but Triple-Header Saturday tomorrow is looking weather perfect which means that as long as we play 3 out of the 4 double-headers scheduled for June… we’re looking good.

Yesterday in Week 4 games there wasn’t anything I’d consider an upset… especially this early in a new season… but there ended up a lot of major movement up and down the Leaderboard as a result of the days scores… as it stands we have 4 undefeated, 4 winless and half the pack at .500 on a 1-game streak, one way or another…

At the conclusion of Triple-Header Saturday tomorrow the League might feel a little surreal from a statistical/standings point-of-view as we’ve never updated the results of 3 games before during the regular season… but then again… a great opportunity to change your lot for the better tomorrow in one fell swoop.

As the timetable tomorrow is a lot looser than it was originally… expect that I’ll keep the soundings of the horn a bit variable… my main intention will be to allow all games to play 7 innings… this really seems to be the biggest takeaway from our having 8 diamonds instead of 4… which isn’t to say play shouldn’t happen in a deliberate manner as I’m guessing an hour fifteen will be the limit between horns… the horn should be treated as follows;

(a) If the horn blows and it is currently the top half of the inning, that inning will be the last inning played.

(b) If the horn blows and it is currently the bottom half of the inning, (1) more inning will be allowed assuming that it is not already the 7th inning.

If the game is tied after 7 innings, (1) more inning will be allowed. If the game is still even after 8, the game will be recorded as a tie.

It’s Picture Day and That’s Important

From a logistical standpoint, taking pictures tomorrow is the biggest moving part… however for the integrity of the website, it is very important that we all work together to make this epic undertaking happen as efficiently as possible… Couple things;

The reason we’re playing a game first and then taking pictures is because I felt that would be the best way to ensure as many people will be in the pictures as possible… I thought about starting the day with pictures… but then figured if I did that I’d have a whole bunch of people that would just sleep in and blow off the pictures… whether you think so or not… the Design League website is a part of Chicago’s rich softball history, all of us should always want to be in the picture…

Second, during the particular span of hours we’ll all be spending at Grant Park tomorrow, 10-11 is going to be the best light we can hope for when it comes to quality picture taking… Ideally they’d all happen at 4:30-5:00 which is the absolute best time… but that won’t be possible.

CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT > When your first game ends… I need you to gather your teams and come immediately to the area between Diamonds 10 and 11… we’ll have the camera positioned so that the skyline is in the background… the intent will be to take pictures one after the other with a brief period of positioning people as each team is composed. As soon as the team picture is done, your teams will exit stage left and head to your next diamond while the Captains stay behind to get their pictures done… then on to the next team… one after the other as fast and efficient as possible. Once all pictures have been taken I will blow the horn, you should start your second game within 5 minutes or so of that horn blast.

Last important things;

• We’re going to be sharing the general Grant Park area in some fashion with the Komen Walk for the Cure event… be forewarned and expect to have to park in the South Loop and walk to the Diamonds.

• Please remember that at the conclusion of your 3rd game I need (1) Captain from each team to come to me on Diamond 11 and report all 3 of your scores from the day…

• Leave no trace… when your day is done please pick up ALL of your teams garbage and get it into a trash can.

If I think of anything else I’ll email later…

 

Design League Format Evolution

So here it is March 10th and I feel SO MUCH more ahead of the game than I have in at least 2 seasons… I started trying to figure things out this season about a month ago now, earlier than normal… truth is, the last two seasons have been such a headache, I felt that I was approaching my limits for what I was willing to endure… but some good back and forth discussion has gone on between our CPD rep and myself and I would say we’re about 80% down the road towards a solution.

For my purposes, I need the Chicago Design League to return to the days when I could know our ENTIRE seasons scheduling and cost now, in March, before things even get underway… and as we are also a social league with an established tradition, it has always remained a priority that we schedule a 15-game regular season every year… so that all teams get to play all others once, at least on paper… and finally, the regular season seeds an all day tournament to decide the league champions… 15 + Tourney… considering the prevalent 7-game + single elimination format espoused by CS&S and Players… we’re blessed to have a CPD Rep who will even work with us on the matter… ’cause when you break it down, our typical season spans (3) season as the Park District sees it; Spring, Summer & Fall…

But to that end, this year yet another wild card was added to the mix… which is the Park District has decreed that Grant Park will NOT be re-opened for use AFTER Lollapalooza… at first blush, this might appear to be a significant turn for the worse… but speculation has been that it’s a move indicating a potential re-working of the diamond locations and configurations at Grant Park… perhaps up to and including the installation of lights… if that ended up happening, our format would absolutely be changing… so view what I’m describing for this season below as sort of an interim step… one way or another though, there is no alternative in my opinion as the song and dance I’ve had to pull off the last couple seasons is no longer something I’m willing to do… if it’s even viable anymore anyway…

So when I speak of our format, I’m describing regular season games starting in May and continuing through August and early September and then our Tournament in mid to late September… after Lollapalooza arrived, we evolved the first time when the month long ‘Lollapalooza Break’ became a yearly fixture between mid-July and mid-August… that went on for a couple seasons before ‘Perry’s Tent’ was introduced to Upper Hutchinson along with its diamond destroying properties… that change has caused us over the last 2 seasons to put together the tail-end of our season in a catch as catch can style… Lincoln Park, Waveland, Lawrence, etc… all at a time in the season when the sun sets earlier and earlier… that process was clearly broken and in need of alternative… so here we are in the present day…

What we’ve come to thus far looks like this… our entire season happens inside the space prior to Lollapalooza… due to the logistics of making this all work, our games would be played on LOWER Hutchinson… roughly for this year that would be game days on May 1, 8, 15, 29.. June 5, 12, 19, 26.. and July 3, 10 & 17… for these (11) dates we’d always have a 6:30 start time, we’d be following another league that was using 5:30 start times and all (8) of our weekly games would play at the same time, which would mean no borrowing of players, at least for this season… and then finally, all the June dates will be double headers… games at 6:30 & 7:30… there’s a little wiggle room here and there for the making up of rain outs, but not a whole lot unfortunately… we’ve yet to figure out the Tournament, but that would be shortly thereafter…

For my tastes, I wish we could go back to the way things were before Lollapalooza arrived, but that’s no longer a possibility… so we go with the flow and see how things go… or we’re out of options… I had preliminary discussions with both Lincoln and Union Parks and basically, they’re simply not going to let me lock anything in here in March… what they’re telling me is the same as I got last year… wait until end of July and we’ll see how our leagues are going, how many rain outs we need to make up, etc… and then we’ll know what we can offer you… and that would be, at least at Lincoln Park, at an exorbitant cost…

All that said, what last season became was highly undesirable anyway in my opinion… at least in the days of the ‘Lollapalooza Break’… we got right back to playing softball after the festival left town and we’d have 4-5 consecutive game days and then the Tourney… that was certainly doable… but last year for instance, we stopped on July 18th… had 2 more (awkward, inconvenient) games as part of a doubleheader at LP on August 29th, a single GP game day two weeks later on September 12th and then the Tournament on September 28th… that’s just not a good situation… everything far too stretched out and disconnected for no real reason…

Details are still being worked out… our Rep is on vacation for the next week so discussions are on hold… but I wanted to put this info out to everyone now that all of you are confirmed in for the season… if this change in format changes the way you feel about participating in the league this season, I wanted you to know now as the collection of diamond dues is about to commence which will be in the $1050-$1150 range most likely, but that is still being negotiated.

Also, and especially to our long-standing and in some cases original Chicago Design League teams… I know we’ve decided most everything over the last 14 years democratically… but in this case I wanted you to know that I didn’t feel I had ‘two’ choices to present… so any comments you may have, questions, concerns.. please post them here in the comments section so they’re part of the permanent record and part of the public Forum… and finally… please, please, please… forward this link to your rosters because with no more borrowing of players and double headers to contend with… it becomes more important that you have rosters that are committed…