M. Eleanor Schmalzl '20
Some of UVa Law students’ best moments come from a bar tab and a break from the library. This was certainly the case thirty-five years ago, when Tom McNeill '84 and a few of his buddies got together for their winter holiday break from classes in 1983. Bob Battle, a 3L at William & Mary at the time, came up with the idea of an inter-law-school tournament. McNeill got approval from the North Ground Softball League commissioners to host the tournament at UVa. The two guys called around to their buddies at other law schools, and the next thing they knew there were sixteen teams from fourteen schools in Charlottesville. The teams competed in one division and played double elimination, with NGSL commissioners doing all the umping and William & Mary taking the championship over UVa. From humble beginnings, the tournament has grown beyond all imagination.
This year, the tournament saw eighty-one teams in the co-rec division and sixteen in the regular division, attracting schools all along the east coast and Midwest. Tournament Directors Dascher Pasco ’18 and Laura Gregory ’18 worked year-round putting this tournament together, spending countless hours to keep things going off without a hitch. The two organized the non-elimination pool play for all the teams, running from Friday through Sunday morning, before the single elimination play began later that day. Ali Goldman ’19 and Janie O’Connor ’19, the two in charge of organizing UVa Law volunteers and handling any emergencies during the tournament, spent their entire weekend at the Park. They helped coordinate with the professional umpires hired to ump the games this weekend and managed any general issues that needed quick resolution. Jonathan York '18, NGSL's Head Commissioner, managed to play, bar hop, and put together the playoff schedule for elimination play after pool play. NGSL raised $20,000 for ReadyKids—and threw the wildest law school party of the year—through intense planning, strong organization, and extreme dedication. What these four and several others put together was nothing short of incredible, creating one of the best weekends many law school students will ever experience in their academic careers.
For me, the annual softball tournament hits close to home. My mom, Mary Wood Schmalzl ’84, played in and helped organize the first tournament in the Spring of 1984. She was a star pitcher during her time at UVa Law and met my dad on Copeley Field during her 1L year. I grew up listening to their stories of UVa law, focusing on their days on the softball field. Despite a family wedding and an eight-hour drive from Kentucky to Virginia, she arrived at about 3 a.m. Sunday morning to watch the elimination play. At the end of Sunday play, Schmalzl, Pasco, and Gregory talked about the tournament and how much it’s grown.
“I never dreamed the tournament would become this big of a deal,” Schmalzl told this year’s Directors. “It’s incredible what you’ve done with it.” Pasco and Gregory shared how much planning comes along with the tournament but how rewarding it is to see it all come together. For them, it was all worth it to see how much fun everyone had, despite the rain and snow that Saturday brought. The group discussed all the positive changes that have come to the tournament and brainstormed ideas to see it continue to improve.
Despite the weekend’s bad weather, the tournament directors made every effort to ensure that all the games were played. While some teams lost their nerve at the sight of the snow falling Saturday, most games did indeed go forward. By the time elimination play rolled around Sunday, the weather had shaped up and the remaining teams readied themselves for serious play. UVa’s Co-Rec Gold and Men’s Gold both advanced to the championship, while Co-Rec Blue and Men’s Blue fell in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, respectively. The finals took place Sunday afternoon at Darden Towe fields in Pantops. UVa Co-Rec Gold faced off at 3:00 p.m. against “Florida–if You Ain’t a Gator, You’re Gator Bait,” a game which the mostly-okay-but-a-little-whiny Gators managed to win to claim the co-rec division championship behind some colossal hits and sterling defense. UVa Men’s Gold, meanwhile, faced off against UVa Iron, a UVa Law alumni softball team. Dean Risa Goluboff got the festivities started, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in the regular division’s final game at 2:00 p.m., an extra special occasion given the fact that both teams represented UVa. “Playing against alums was awesome,” Peter Dragna ’20, the only 1L on UVa Men’s Gold this season, told me. “It shows you how close of a community UVa is. Those old guys could still ball, too.” The Men’s Gold team jumped out to an early lead thanks to hot bats, scoring eight runs in the top of the first while batting through the entire lineup. After that, the game settled into a steady rhythm. The alums seemed to be mounting a comeback, but they faltered in the top of the seventh. After holding Men’s Gold scoreless for the first time the frame before, and on their last chance to score the seven runs needed to tie, UVa Iron was shut down by the Men’s Gold defense, going down in order to end the game, with Men’s Gold prevailing over their senior comrades 15–8. On winning the tournament as a 1L, Dragna commented, “It was a great feeling to win it all, but I was more excited to be able to see Vince [Flynn], York, [Nick] Hagen, and Henry [Morris] go out as champs. Also, we were pretty sure York would kill someone on the team if we didn’t win, so that played a factor in my excitement as well.” The team was proud to bring a trophy to the UVa halls and redeem themselves after last year's tough loss to Men's Blue.
As corny as it may sound, I’ve dreamed of attending UVa Law since sixth grade and hoped to play in this tournament for just as long. Knowing that this dream would become reality this year, I went into the weekend with high hopes. Despite a tough loss in the co-rec regular division championship, I made some memories to last a lifetime during this 35th annual tournament. And, to help paint a picture of the weekend, what follows is a compilation of quotes, stories, and happenings from the weekend:
- Friday at 5 p.m., UVa’s Co-Rec America and Co-Rec Wild Thangs started off the tournament. Co-Rec America’s first baseman puffed a cigar while Co-Rec Wild Thang hitters rocked leopard-print leggings, setting the mood right for the party that is pool play. Co-Rec Wild Thangs got the W, but Co-Rec America won crowd favorite because, well, ’Merica.
- Buffalo Law brought the party at 8 p.m. Friday night, bringing a full-out boom box and hoisting women on men’s shoulders in the dugout, getting three alcohol warnings from the ump before the game ended. Things got heated when Buffalo broke the co-rec line in the outfield, and even more intense when a Suffolk player threw a bat after an out. My advice: if you’re competitive, beer-league softball may not be for you.
- Anonymous Notre Dame player at their Friday night game against UVa’s Co-Rec Blue: “We’re not here to play; we’re here to drink.”
- Random fan at the same game, commenting on Notre Dame trying to argue that women don’t have to stay behind the co-rec line in the outfield: “Gender is so 2016!”
- Yale, trying to live up to their law school rank, was #1 to show up to the fields for their 7 a.m. game Saturday morning. Being #1 has its consequences though, like when your opponent doesn’t show up and you don’t get to play. Makes you realize sometimes being a hard-working, dependable law-student just doesn’t pay off.
- Not only did Yale get burned by their 7 a.m. game time, but Villanova also suffered from a no-show opponent early Saturday morning. NYU must’ve been intimidated after the NCAA basketball tournament and opted to stay at the bars later Friday instead of suffer a crushing defeat from the champions.
- Contemplating his scheduled 7 a.m. Sunday game, one Columbia Law player intent on seeing Gunners N' Roses Saturday night commented, “There’s no f**king way I’m making that game. We might as well forfeit now.”
- Umpire’s response to, “Looks like the rain hasn’t picked up”: “That’s what she said right before the bed broke.” We still don't know what that means, but we have given up trying to figure it out.
- The pitcher for the Harvard-Nationals was confused during his Saturday game against UVa’s Co-Rec Gold—his burgundy pants and nice gray sweater had everyone wondering if he knew he was coming to UVa to play softball or if he thought he was traveling to C’ville for a hot Tinder date.
- Fordham University, after being ejected for profanity and disrespect to their opponents and the umpire: “WE’RE NOT THAT DRUNK!”
- And the anonymous player from the opposing team after Fordham tried to say they should get to continue playing because they "were way more drunk the game before”: “Just because you get caught stealing a candy bar today doesn’t mean you can get away with it by saying you stole a car the day before!” Law school logic taught you well, my friend.
- Two games ground to a sudden halt when a series of loud, excited screams were heard at the Park around 9:30 p.m. Saturday night. Play resumed when it became clear that not only was no one in trouble, but that the screams were merely the celebration of Courtney Koelbel ’19, who had just won the popular phone trivia game “HQ.”
- Seton Hall players, after losing to UVa’s Co-Rec Gold 29-0 on Saturday evening: “Are you sure you’re law students and not actually headed to the minors?”
- Players for the Ohio State co-rec team embarrassed themselves with endless sanctimonious chirping and complaining. When the UVa field monitor asked the thick-skinned ump—whose day job is as a probation officer—if the players were drunk, she replied, “I sure hope so. If not, they’re just assholes.”
- Rebecca Rubin ’19 suffered ridicule and jeers after she clumsily broke the co-rec trophy as it waited for presentment on the Darden Towe bleachers. Not about to have something go wrong after a near-flawless weekend, tournament director Pasco leapt into action, procuring a saving supply of gorilla glue, and leaving Florida none the wiser that their trophy was mangled.
- Mary Seraj '19 and Greg Bischoping, a Penn Law student, got engaged this past weekend after meeting at the 2017 softball tournament last year. Despite the Co-Rec Gold team's loss, I am glad these two had a happy ending!
For all who missed this year's tournament, I hope you'll find the time to watch a few games this time next year. The tournament is a hallmark of UVa Law and is part of what brings us together as a community. You won't remember—or enjoy—your April weekends in the library, but you will remember—or maybe not?—your fun times at UVa Law softball games.
 Seriously, I’m convinced they slept in the concession stand.
 If you don’t believe me, go read any Law Weekly from 1982-84.
 A UVa loss is a loss; let’s not talk about the score.
 Editor’s note: “guys” includes one woman as well #Represent.
 Wahoos > Gators
 Kira Schwartz, I love you!
 Stop being a gunner.