“The course of true love never did run smooth” – William Shakespeare
It was a deceptively cold April evening. We sat in Regent’s Park, sipping beer and crunching on crisps, and for a while the gathering could have been mistaken for a chilled-out Spring picnic.
But this was no picnic.
This was no time to chill out.
This was softball.
This was the first game of the season.
There were a lot of new faces in the line-up, so Haider, our ever-enthusiastic captain, gave us a pre-game tactical masterclass. His plan was met with a row of blank faces, so with no whiteboard to explain on, we streamlined our tactics and built out an agile two-step roadmap for success:
1) Hit the ball
2) Run until someone tells you to stop
Tactics covered, it was time to meet our opponents: Team Sprinkler, a gaggle of energetic legging-wearing young agency folk.
Their love of lycra gave them the aerodynamic upper-hand, and after a close first couple of innings they had pulled ahead. The newbies (Abraham, Lobban, Ross-Skinner etc.) were struggling with the rules and some of the veterans more experienced players (Bishop, Campbell) were looking rusty after a long off-season. The game ticked-over, close and uneventful, until fate intervened.
An athletic Sprinkler came bounding towards the home base, tried to stop, skidded, and crashed straight into our backstop. The pair rolled together through the damp grass for what seemed like an eternity, clinging on to their forbidden love. It was a cross-agency romance, a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, and somehow it changed the complexion of the game.
Team TIPi started to turn up the heat. The roguish Ryan Foley somehow seemed to hit home-run after home-run whilst never putting down his beer or putting out his cigarette. Elinor followed his example, racing between the bases and showing glimpses of brilliance. Harvey converted his table-tennis tekkers into softball skills. Gaz gave chat from the side-lines. Annie’s pencil scored with utmost precision. Ollie took a flamboyant inside-out catch which, if an England scout had been strolling by, might have led to an England call-up. Phil ducked and dived, but couldn’t quite dodge. Jess offered endless encouragement, and actually caught the ball!
Haider led from the front, and what he lacked in hitting the ball he made up for with his untameable passion for the game. In the end, team Sprinkler was extinguished, their damp enthusiasm and silly tights were no match for Tipi. The score finished 18-10 (I think) and we retired to the pub for some well-deserved refreshments.
The second game of the season will take place tonight, so get down to the park and, swing a bat, chuck a ball, or just cheer on the TIPi team. Trust me, it’s a laugh – and you may even find love among the long grass.