If you’re a regular at a local bar, chances are you’ve heard of the “barfly league.” It’s been around, in some form, for more than a decade and is currently comprised of teams from seven bars, one restaurant and one hospital in the Bay Ridge area. The game is fast-pitch softball, with a side of drinking and cursing. If you have heard of the league, it’s probably because you’ve been sitting at your bar when a group of ten men stroll in wearing matching shirts and carrying equipment, sweating and—depending on the night—either complaining or celebrating.
Teams typically consist of owners, staff, and regulars, all at widely varying levels of athleticism. But everyone’s got two very important things in common: they can at least swing a bat, and they can throw back a beer while playing. Most players are Bay Ridge natives, but some of the newer teams also have transplants. There are teams who have been playing together for almost a decade.
“These are a bunch of guys who grew up together and wanted to play ball,” said Jason McDermott, the owner of the Pour House, which sponsors two teams in the league. “And it’s an excuse to drink on a weeknight.” (The other bars are Kettle Black, Kitty Kiernan’s, Pippin’s, the Wicked Monk, the Lock Yard, and Bean Post. Offshore Diner also sponsors a team, as does Maimonides Hospital.)
The league is officially all male, though there are currently about three women who play. The league manager stresses that the league is “competitive,” so anyone who wants to join can, as long as the game is taken seriously. And, for the most part, players have taken this to heart. Games are as full of effort as they are of chugging Budweiser. Many of the players know each other, though (or at least know the righties from the lefties before they even step up to the plate), so the league feels friendly and jocular. Plus, it’s peppered by the sass of the umps, who have been known to make jabs at players. When a woman is up to bat, they’re quick to motion to the outfield to back up. And they are not afraid to argue with a player, sometimes vehemently, if he disagrees with their calls.
All games are in the evening, mostly on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and take place at the ballfields on Shore Road and 95th Street. The regular season is from May to July, with 10 games in total. Each year, the team holds championships, for which the playoffs begin in several weeks. Speculation has begun as to who will take the championship this year; Maimonides is allegedly the best team in the league, probably because it is not in fact made up of barflies.
If all of this sounds enticing, how do you join a bar league? My recommendation is to belly up to your favorite watering hole, swear allegiance to only that bar, and start bragging about your untold talents at the plate. You’ll be explaining away your Wednesday morning hangovers in no time.
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