S25 Lichterfelde Ost Bhf
Bus X11, Bus 380 Ostpreußendamm / Königsberger Str.
History of the Diplomatic Softball League e.V.
Once upon a time a few people in the US Embassy decided we needed to have a softball league so we started playing pick up games loosely somewhere about the year 1999 on Steward Strasse in Zehlendorf. This was the old little league fields built a zillion years before by the Army Corp of engineers. The Field was a double field with diamonds on opposite sides of a rectangle. We simply showed up Saturdays around 12 and played ball. Through my connections to the Berlin Embassy Rod & Gun Club there was a member and good friend (Simon Jeffries) who owned a business selling cars to diplomats called “Diplomatic Sales”. Well Simon said “why don’t you form a league and I will sponsor it.” With his contacts to other embassies The Diplomatic Softball league was born.
Most people confuse the word “Diplomatic” to mean nothing but Diplomats but is actually stood for the company he owned. It still gets confusing today. We started with a lot of various Embassy teams like Australia / New Zealand, Canada, Japan, and the majority of the teams coming from the US Embassy. At the beginning there were few totally expat teams. There were I believe 6 teams in the original league that expanded quickly to 8 teams. At one point we had 14 teams playing in the DSL. That was a crazy season. Simon is still our sponsor by the way and we love him for it.
Initially we just played ball and everyone had brought their own food or drinks. We started to grill out there since we were out there all day we were hungry and sell drinks initially it was free. I started to bring a portable grill, a cooler, and I shared with everyone. That got to expensive so I started to charge for the stuff. It was never about making money it was about covering my costs. Dues back then were some silly amount like €5 for the season. Trophies and the toilet was sponsored by Simon and every week we carried all the equipment, bases, balls, bats, grills, coolers, food, drinks, you name it we carried it in my van and took it all away at the end of the day along with the trash.
We cut the grass for the city and everyone loved us playing there. We loved that field. We were liked so much by the city they even allowed us to place a container on the field to store the equipment. Somewhere about 2008 they started to build a duplex right next to the back stop fences. Shortly there after two families moved in with small children. Of course they bought the places in the DSL off season when there was nobody playing ball and a quiet place. They were pretty surprised to see us show up in April and play ball with hundreds of people watching and playing it was a huge circus and I was the ring master.
Well it did not take long for them to sue the city in 2009. This is where we had to form a German non profit organization “eV” to fight for our field with the city. They actually held court on the fields one day with the judge standing in the center of an angry mob of people. These were the neighbors who watched us for 10 years or more. These were our fans, friends, family. Standing next to the judge fearing for their lives were the two couples feeling the heat.
Well long story short. When the field was given to the district of Zehlendorf they classified it as a “boltzplatz” and a “Natureschutz park” and not a “Sports Field”. If they had they would have had to build showers and all kinds of facilities they were not willing to do so. Because the field was not a sports field the judge said as much as he hated to do it he had to rule in the plaintiffs favor. Why? Because you are not allowed to use a “schleudergerate” a.k.a. a bat in a nature park.
So our time on Steward Strasse was done after more than a decade playing there. Rebirth of a league on a new field. Birth Of Defender Sports Field Like the phoenix rising from the ashes we had to find a new home. We spent the off season of 2009—2010 not really having a plan or a clue on where to go. A member of the league Thorsten Starost (Brew Bears) said what about the abandoned field on Goethe Strasse? We arranged a meeting with the sportamt and they agreed to let us play there. In March of 2010 we moved what was two bus stop shelters (that were used as dugouts) over to the new field along with the benches and picnic tables. We arranged some netting on the third base side and some chicken wire for the back stop. The field was in terrible shape. No fences, Abandoned graffiti sprayed houses full with trash, huge trenches dug on both sides of the field it was a disaster. The field lay dormant for about 15 or more years as it once was a soccer field but the city decided it wanted to build something there that never happened. Defender Sports Field is located on the corner of Goethe Strasse and Königsberger Strasse in Berlin-Lichterfelde.
During the initial season of 2010 we were in communication with the sportamt about the plans for the backstops and fences on Steward Strasse. They, as a good will gesture, disassembled the backstops and fencing on Steward Strasse and transported them to the new field in the fall of 2010. In March Rebirth of a league on a new field. Birth Of Defender Sports Field of 2011 we started construction of the field. Over six weeks we built the field we have today.A lot of this was done by Rodney Usakowski a.ka. “Ski” and the Brew Bears. They were for all practical purposes the leagues Army Corp of Engeneers. Raising backstops, fences, netting, carport, to build Defender Sports Field.
A lot of hard work has gone into building the field. The name Defender Field was chosen as it was the old field on McNair Barracks and we had the original sign. That field was also destroyed to make new houses when the Army left Berlin. I liked the idea and Defender Sport Field was born again. So we have managed to save parts of history and repurpose them. 15 years and going strong. I am very proud of the league and the field we have built out of nothing. All we wanted to have was a place to play and call our own. It is a fun time for the whole family. Young and old experienced or novice can find a home in the DSL. We have a big party with some softball thrown in. That is the DSL.
– Sheldon Eisenhower A.K.A. El Papa Softball President and founder Diplomatic Softball League Berlin