Trading their T-squares for baseball diamonds and designing homes for crossing home plate, a group of architects and engineers gathers every spring at the Rusty Lions fields in San Antonio for friendly games of softball. The league has existed for 22 years and is home to 12 teams representing about 20 firms.
Richard Deras, AIA, Beverly R. Baldwin, AIA, and Duncan McAda organize the league, the only one of its kind in the city. A memorable summer tradition, many of the players have been coming back for years. Deras, who has been playing in the league since its inception, says he returns for the fellowship, with the other teams as well as his own. "Many of the teams have been playing against each other for years, and it seems like each year, we get a new team to expand our fellowship.”
Not for the faint of heart, the games often feature “on-field banter and … a good crowd of spectators who like to heckle,” according to Baldwin. Over time, the activities have expanded to include an annual all-star game, cookouts, and a home run derby. Then there is the Principal Hitting Contest, intended to test what firm principal “still has it,” says Deras. A friendly competitive spirit infuses the league, and various good-natured rivalries have developed over the years. No one firm dominates the league year to year, but Baldwin believes the engineering firms have a better record. “Architects are artistic, not athletic.”
What are the similarities between softball and architecture? According to Deras, “focus, determination, competitiveness, professionalism, working as a team, support, delegation, and organization” are all skills from the architecture world that have served him well in the game. Baldwin concurs, with the addition that “generally speaking, architects make pretty good beer drinkers.”
There have been plenty of on-field heroics in the course of the league’s 22 year run, many involving home runs. Deras fondly remembers hitting a grand slam to win a game. McAda describes “hitting a home run in a playoff game to put our team up.” Baldwin recalls winning the championship not once but twice, first when one of his firm's principals made the game winning catch and then retired from the game, and next with an improvised championship banner made of cleats.
All in all, San Antonio’s SALSA league provides a friendly space for architects and engineers to meet and mingle under the Texas sun. There is still time to catch a game this summer to see architects outside of the studio. The league runs through August 19. Sign ups for the 2017 season will begin in March.