Articles Ireland Irish Times Technology

Ballpark figures – Irish companies playing softball

Monday, July 08, 1996

Received wisdom says that to work in computers you need only cerebral skills – rearranging noughts and ones is a singularly sedentary pursuit.  But there are a fair few IT firms in Dublin who would be pleased if you can also hit home runs or catch a fly ball out of the sun back on the fence.

The Leinster Softball League (LSL) boasts 78 teams (18 more than last year), and computer firms making up a sizeable chunk of the teams – the Claris Crusaders, Gateway Comanches, Digital Dodgers and Symantec Hackers turn out against the Isocor Angels, the Oracle Orbits and the Fujitsu Olympians. Even clubs without direct affiliations with companies seem to have more of their fair share of programmers, testers and project leaders.

?I?m not sure exactly why so many computer people are involved,?  says Paul Byrne, Director of the LSL. ?But there?s a bit of friendly rivalry between Lotus and Microsoft, for example,?

Microsoft might be able to take on allcomers software, but in softball, they?ve still got some work to do. ?No-one is particularly fussed about beating any of Microsoft’s 3 teams as it’s not much of an ambition – they’re not the greatest of teams,? says Ann Murphy, Chairperson of the Irish Baseball and Softball Association (IBSA), which oversees the sport in Ireland.

Softball has many similarities to baseball, with batters hitting the ball and attempting to get round the bases and back to the home plate.  The only major differences are that the teams are mixed (at least three women on a team of 10) amd pitchers throw the (larger) ball underarm.

The sport, which now has 1400 registered players, started in Ireland less than 10 years ago. ‘Back in 1987, Aer Lingus played Digital every week for one whole season, believing that they were the only two teams in Dublin,? says Murphy.

?One day in 1988, a team from Texaco were spotted in Herbert Park, who also knew a team who played in Dodder Park, and we now had 4 teams and nearly enough for a mini-league. Two more teams appeared from the Fairview and Clontarf area and all of a sudden we had enough to start a league.?

Now, communication is a bit more organized – the ISBA and four teams have web sites, and email keeps everyone informed. ?For us as an organisation it makes life a lot easier to have email contact with all our teams,? says Ann Murphy. ?Information is available instantly and we can also reach a lot more of our individual members than we can by doing a mail shot.

So are business deals done at the diamonds? Ann Murphy doesn?t think so: ‘Not much headhunting or networking goes on. I think people are more interested in drinking beer ‘

(first published in The Irish Times, Monday, July 8th, 1996)