Sunday Conversation with Steve Berry

Softball league provides outlet for nonprofit workers

On week days, dedicated folks at nonprofits across Atlanta work hard for their cause. On Thursday night in Piedmont Park, a group of those folks play hard for C.A.U.S.E., their softball league. C.A.U.S.E, which stands for Charities of Atlanta United through Sporting Events, has been going strong for a dozen years and is the brainchild of Steve Berry, who works in online sales for “Arthritis Today,” the magazine of the Atlanta-based Arthritis Foundation. Berry, a shortstop/pitcher with a batting average not quite what he’d like, talks about how softball can build a strong team on and off the field. He should know. He met his wife through a workplace softball league.

Q: Why did you start the C.A.U.S.E. league?

A: My wife and I used to work at law firms in the D.C. area and played on their softball teams. Softball there is the social thing to do in your work life and everybody plays on The Mall. Soon after moving to Atlanta in 2001 and starting a new job, I realized morale was low because of 9/11 and the economy. To help with morale, I decided we should start a softball team at the Arthritis Foundation. We joined one of the social leagues that plays at Piedmont Park but it was pricey for a nonprofit and we didn’t feel connected to other teams. Since there are a number of nonprofits in Atlanta, I reached out to them to see if they wanted to start a league.

Q: What does the league do for nonprofits?

A: It gives people an outlet to go out and play. It creates camaraderie within the workplace.

Q: Who were the pioneers?

A: American Cancer Society, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, The Carter Center and Arthritis Foundation were the four original teams. We now have nine teams, including Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, where my wife works.

Q: How would you describe the league’s level of competition?

A: You have your athletic types who may have played in high school and college. Then you have some people who never played before and just want to come out and have a good time with their coworkers.

Q: Do the other more cutthroat leagues make fun of you?

A: Not that I know of.

Q: Do teams have nicknames?

A: Boys & Girls Clubs of America are the Knucklers — their symbol is intertwined hands. American Cancer Society are the Tumornators. We are the Arthritis Ale Stars, a play on whatever ails you and we like to go out after the games and celebrate. Now that we have gotten older, we are not as fun as we used to be.

Q: Is there a lot of trash talking? Who talks the most?

A: There is a lot of good-natured smack talking, yes. Let’s just say that Boys & Girls Clubs of America has the most personality.

Q: Any fights or brawls?

A: Not anything recently.

Q: Who has the strongest team?

A: American Cancer Society and Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which has a lot of sports-oriented folks, have been the teams to beat for a while. The Rollins School of Public Health actually won last year’s championship against The Carter Center.

Q: Do you have to play against your wife’s team?

A: We play against each other at least once a year, then maybe again in the playoffs. I would never hear the end of it if I lost to her — which I did last year.

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The Sunday Conversation is edited for length and clarity. Writer Ann Hardie can be reached by email at ann.hardie@ymail.com.

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