18 years of big fun softball

Free Play Softball league team photo presents diversification at its playful beat. Photo by David Maxse.

In the late '80s, Dave Kolb and his wife Alice, both professors in organizational behavior at Case Western Reserve University, were playing softball in a league made up of various university departments. They eventually became uncomfortable with the level of competitiveness in the league. Dave and Alice believed softball was "too much fun to be left to those who do it well." So, in 1991 they took their department team out of the league and started a Sunday morning pick-up sides softball game for a group of diverse individuals to play, free from an emphasis on skills but with a focus on having fun.

Today, 18 years after its formation, this group is called the Free Play Softball League. Dave and Alice continue to facilitate the league but they are quick to acknowledge "the contributions of long term members including Ken Koles, Francis Chiappa, Steve Calhoun, and others to nurture and grow the softball league they all helped create."

The Sunday after tax day marks opening day for a season that continues until it snows sometime in November. Each Sunday, play begins at 10:00 a.m. and ends at noon. Dave arrives 30 minutes early to unload the bats, balls, extra gloves, and water, and to set up the playing field with bases and orange cones to mark the foul lines. There are no fees or commitments to play every week. The games are played at Forest Hill Park on field #8, a beautiful expanse of grass with enough imperfections to be consistent with the informality of play. Friendly rules include no strike-outs and substitute runners if needed. Steve Calhoun, who makes up the sides, says "Every Sunday I show up because I really love experiencing the incredible novel events that animate each game."

Mark Bass, a former rugby player, speaks for many when he says, "Where else can an almost 60-year-old guy with two bad knees and a chronic hamstring condition play the 'hot corner' third base position?" Ken Koles, a charter member, feels that "Sunday morning softball is the most fun (other than with my wife) I have all week; two hours of playing and smiling."

Thanks to longtime Cleveland Heights residents Dave and Alice Kolb (and many others), Free Play Softball is a community tradition that can be enjoyed by all because it is free in every sense of the word. Stop by some Sunday!

Tom Woodworth is a retired advertising and public relations professional and currently volunteers as a business counselor with SCORE. He looks forward to playing Free Play Softball every possible Sunday.

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Volume 2, Issue 4, Posted 10:57 PM, 04.08.2009