For one weekend in the spring, the complex of athletic fields known as “The Park” becomes the center of the softball universe. There, the Law School’s North Grounds Softball League hosts a tournament that is one of the year’s most anticipated events, drawing more than 1,400 students and professors playing on 112 teams from 48 law schools for barbecue, beer and plenty of competition.
“As you might imagine, coordinating 250 softball games on 13 fields while keeping 1,400 people happy is a huge undertaking,” says tournament director Kelli Scheid, who organized the event with co-director John Bates.
In this year’s 24th Annual Law School Invitational, the six teams representing UVA tasted both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. For the fifth consecutive year, the UVA Men’s Gold team won the men’s division, defeating Regent in the eighth inning, 9-8. An eight-year winning streak came to a halt for the UVA Co-Rec Gold, losing in dramatic fashion to Maryland, which won with a walk-off home run.
All of the fun goes toward a good cause. The tournament raised a record donation of $17,500 for local nonprofit Children, Youth & Family Services. Additionally, the Public Interest Law Association received $3,000 and the Legal Aid Justice Center received $2,500.
The tournament’s organizing body, the North Grounds Softball League, has a long and storied history. The league was founded in 1976 by classmates J. Gordon Hylton (Law ’77) and Fred Vogel (Law ’77), who were looking for a higher level of competition than what was available in the existing UVA intramural leagues. The team rosters in those early days featured many notable alumni from the Law School’s Class of 1977, including future New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz, future Sen. George Allen, future D.C. U.S. Attorney Roscoe Howard, and future National Hockey League vice-president Skip Prince. In the fall 1977 season, the late Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn (Law ’50) returned to Grounds to pitch in a league game.