Hill’s Free Agents Just Want a Team, Not Money

It’s most notably a way for Major League stars to command multimillion-dollar contracts, but free agency has trickled all the way down to the Capitol Hill softball leagues, matching individuals without a team to squads looking to fill a roster need.

The Congressional Softball League has the most extensive approach to helping softball players find homes. Commissioner Gary Caruso points all interested players to the league’s Web site, congsoftball.com, where they first register as an individual and pay the league’s $24 insurance and entry fee.

Caruso will send free agents a form to fill out, asking questions ranging from playing experience to political affiliation to whether they’d prefer a competitive or more laid-back team.

“Do you want to play in D.C., Virginia or Maryland,— Caruso said, continuing the list of questions he uses. “Then we ask a couple questions about what defensive positions they feel comfortable with and about their past and what type of ball they’ve played before.—

Caruso also asks free agents if they’d prefer to play for a team from a certain geographic area — think red state or blue state, East Coast or West Coast — but some players don’t have preferences in those areas. “I identify myself as a Democrat, but I’ve had two sons of [Utah Republican Sen.] Orrin Hatch on my teams over the years,— Caruso said.

Once all that information is compiled, he posts it, with contact information, in an area of the Web site that only team managers can see. From there, the managers contact the free agents and a match is usually made.

Caruso has seen a spike in the number of teams and also the number of free agents, perhaps attributable to the turnover in Congress after last year’s elections. So with the extra pool, the Congressional Softball League has taken free agency a step further in 2009.

“This year, we tried having one of the free agents actually create a team from the free agents, and he’s actually been pretty successful,— Caruso said of the manager of the hodgepodge Agents 007. “They even practiced over [last] weekend and are ready to go.—

The U.S. House Softball League has a message board for free agents — along with one for scheduling games and one for “smack talk— — on its Web site, housesoftball.com. Both players looking for teams and teams looking for players can post ads on the board.

Anthony Reed, one of the league’s commissioners, said the board doesn’t see too much activity — he estimated there are 10 to 12 inquiries each year — but that those who do use it usually end up finding a home.

“That’s the one part of the site that doesn’t require any user name or password,— Reed said. “There aren’t a lot of folks who know about the league who aren’t on a team, but folks that have advertised there have had a pretty good success rate. They’ll usually get married up with a team.—

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