by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Let us deal today with a timely sports question. How do you choose a company softball team?

I can answer this. The answer is, there are lots of ways. My favorite way is in a bar, late at night, with a hat, 50 pieces of paper, and a group of people who like to sing in Swedish, even though they don’t speak Swedish. And plenty of ice. But that is just my way. And I don’t hit very well.

Others take the process more seriously. In fact, to certain types — investment bankers, account executives, anyone from New York — softball leagues have become roughly the equivalent of, oh, say, holy war.

So how do you compete? First of all, because it is already April, it is too late to even ask such a question. In today’s competitive business world, the winning softball teams make up their rosters back in November. They conduct spring training in Florida. Several players actually are under contract. They will never admit this. But if you know a burly salesman who hasn’t met a quota in years, chances are he’s somebody’s first baseman.

Still, there is hope for your group. Their bus could crash. Or corporate headquarters might phase out their entire division. And if that kind of luck should strike, you better be ready.

Here then, as a public service, and I don’t do this for everybody, are my 26 tried and tested methods for picking a winning softball team. And I emphasize the word winning, which is not the same as wearing a sweatshirt and waking up with a hangover. Ready?

1. Never pick the boss.

2. Never pick the boss’ secretary.

3. Pick Vinny from the shipping department. If there is no Vinny, pick Frank. No doubt Frank will know a Vinny, probably from some other shipping department, and Vinny will know another Vinny. Or Eddie. So you end up with three guys, either Vinny, Vinny and Vinny, or Frank, Vinny and Vinny, or Frank, Vinny and Eddie. This, by the way, is your starting outfield.

4. Never pick a Seth.

5. If you hold open tryouts, and a player shows up with a large radio on his shoulder, grab him.

6. Unless the radio is playing Barry Manilow.

7. Are we dealing with co-ed teams? We are?

8. In that case, anyone named Brenda gets on automatically. At least on my team.

9. Take any player with his own ice chest. (If you do not understand this, I am not going to explain. You should join the company racquetball league instead, where they drink Perrier.)

10. No vice-presidents.

11. Never take a guy wearing a batting glove. Batting gloves do nothing. Batting gloves are an excuse for people to spend $10, so the owner of the sporting goods store can take his wife to France.

12. Anyone with a tattoo starts.

13. Two tattoos bats cleanup.

14. IMPORTANT TIP: LOOK AT THE GLOVE. If it is ratty and frayed and has masking tape all over it, you want the guy. If it is shiny and orange and is signed by Rusty Staub, you better pass.

15. If he owns spikes, he’s in.

16. Never take the boss. I know we covered this already. I don’t want you to forget.

17. ANOTHER IMPORTANT TIP: LOOK AT THE CAR. As a general rule, people who drive Volkswagen beetles make good softball players. I don’t know why this is. But then, I don’t know why Vinny from shipping is so good, year after year. I do know I have never seen a decent softball player pull up in a Chrysler New Yorker. Ever.

18. No more than four players with glasses.

19. Only players named “Pepper” or “Spike” or “Scooter” can be your shortstop. But only if that is his real name. Have him bring a birth certificate. I mean, anyone can call himself “Scooter,” right? You want the guy whose parents thought it up.

20. Pick someone with spare bats.

21. Get at least one person from sales. Even if he or she can’t play, at least you’ll find out what all those other sneaky salespeople are planning.

22. Choose a catcher who is loud and obnoxious. Someone who will say to a batter, “Hey. If you had a brain, you’d be outside playing with it.” Don’t worry about angering the opponents. You have Frank, Vinny and Eddie, remember?

23. NEVER PICK THE BOSS! Just a reminder.

24. No Dr. Pepper drinkers. I don’t trust them.

25. If Rita, the redheaded receptionist, is at all interested, sign her up. The hell with her average.

26. (In the case of an all-female team, the above words “Rita, the redheaded receptionist,” should be replaced by, “Sven, the tall, blond shipping clerk.” And to hell with his average.)

So there you have it. Of course, these rules apply only if your goal is to win the softball trophy and go to the awards dinner. Once you do that, everyone else in the company will wish you a slow death, and you will, naturally, have no future outside of the shipping department.

But for you, it may be worth it. On the other hand, if your goal is to get ahead in business, I advise only two things:

Pick your boss. And let him play shortstop.


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