On the field, men and women are batting, pitching, smacking balls, dropping catches, and sometimes even scoring runs. It’s just another day for the Baltimore Sports & Social Club Inc. (BSSC) as two teams play a make-up softball game.
“It’s fun, you get to hang out with friends, and meet a bunch of people. It’s mostly social, but there’s some competition and you get out in the sun,” said Ben Stern, a member of the Boozehounds. The Boozehounds have played in the BSSC since 1998.
Stern heard about BSSC through word-of-mouth years ago, started playing street hockey, and hasn’t stopped since. He has played or coached all sports in the league, with the exception of wiffleball.
Standing on the sidelines wearing a shirt that reads, “Mike Cray, President of BSSC, Damn Glad to Meet You,” BSSC’s founder lives up to his shirt. He fields phone calls, jokes with players, and chats with a couple passing by on bicycles.
The couple met playing in the league and later married, he says.
Cray founded BSSC in 1998 after a lifetime of playing sports and organizing events. He didn’t know Patterson Park even existed until he went to Looney’s Pub in Canton and later “opened up a map to see a big park 10 blocks down the road.”
He went to the city Recreation and Parks department to see about renting the fields to provide a “fun, coed, sports league” where the “main focus is the social part of sports.”
In the BSSC’s first season Cray organized 16 teams with about 200 people playing fall football. Today, BSSC has 4,000 people playing on 232 softball teams alone, and approximately 30,000 people in the group’s database of people who have played in the club at some point.
Cray said that between 4,000 and 5,000 people play in each sport, depending on the sport and season. In 2004, he expanded his business to Annapolis starting the Annapolis Sports & Social Club Inc.
Along the way, Cray has spent all of $5 on advertising, putting up fliers in Looney’s Pub. All support has come through word-of-mouth, much like business he received when he worked as a construction contactor.
Cray tries to instill in his players sportsmanlike conduct with no yelling at the umpire, and no contact. He also stresses the importance of safety.
He wants people to “meet new people, drink a couple of beers, and have fun.” The teams are divided into different levels such as social, for those with advanced athletic skills, extreme social, for those with intermediate athletic skills, and super extreme social, for those with basic athletic skills.
BSSC also organizes local happy hours and trips to Ravens games.
In addition to the organizining a social sports league, the BSSC is also involved in charity work, raising $12,000 in the first week of December of last year for Santa Clause Anonymous.
BSSC has also installed new fences and benches, fixed lighting, and built port-a-pot enclosures in Patterson Park.
After their Saturday game, members of Butt Sweat and Beers, which has played since 2004 in various forms, gathered under a tree to relax and picnic.
For Kelly Stec, playing in the BSSC is a chance to be social and active. “I’ve met a ton of people, and it’s a great way to expand your social network in Baltimore.”
Those interested in BSSC can find more information on their website, baltssc.com. Fall football sign-up started Aug. 9. Players can sign up as a team, or individually.