“In 2022, Fes couldn’t even find first base on a map, but in 2023, they located it and camped out with a championship trophy in hand.” - Osama Mujahid (Probably).
In the wacky world of softball, success is often measured by the culmination of a team's hard work, determination, and growth over a season. The BSL League ll Championship of 2023 was a testament to the remarkable development story anchored by the resilience (and occasional shenanigans) of the leadership core. Let us delve into the inspiring journey of our team and highlight key players who played pivotal roles in our path to victory.
Heading into Week 1 of the playoffs Fes was oozing with confidence having taken down Tripoli, the top team in the league, 18-5 in the final game of the regular season. Finishing the regular season with a bang, Fes managed to secure the fourth seed going into playoffs and were matched up against Timbuktu. Timbuktu had a roster stacked with some potent players on both sides of the ball and seemed to be a top contender during the first half of the season. Though they had slowed down nearing the end of the regular season this was no team to count out as they were a beast ready to awaken at any given moment. This statement held true as Timbuktu had seemingly come together at the right time, keeping Fes’ lead to a couple runs the whole game, but despite their best efforts Fes had managed to win the game by a slim margin of 2 runs. On the other side of the bracket Jakarta had come out on top in a slug-off against Kashgar’s hot bats and then took down a cold Bukhara to advance to the Finals.
Week 2 of playoffs had Fes playing in the Semi-Finals against Tripoli, who they had recently bested and had a huge amount of confidence going against. Tripoli had revenge on their minds coming into the playoffs and with a bye in Week 1 they had plenty of extra time to prepare for it. The first inning had both teams start off well, having the game tied 3-3 going into the second and shortly after Tripoli had managed to take a 1 run lead into the third. Little did they know that this would be the only lead they would get the whole game as Fes took their game to the next level. Fes’ stellar defense and pitching only allowed a combined 3 runs for the rest of the game whilst also setting their bats ablaze and scoring 14 runs in 5 innings to blowout the titans that were Tripoli 17-7.
And so the stage was set, Fes would play Jakarta in the Finals having arguably the best offense in the league(Jakarta) go up against arguably the best defense in the league(Fes). Now this was not the only storyline heading into the Finals as Fes had been outplayed by Jakarta in all of their regular season meetings. To add some more spice, this game would also feature 2 brothers in opposite dugouts. Saad Aslam(GM of Jakarta) and younger/better brother Numair Aslam(AGM of Fes) would face off for the same trophy they had just come short of together the year prior. A battle for the ages set to commence as two absolute juggernauts clashed for glory. Fes having just played their Semifinals game came out the gates blazing putting up 6 runs to Jakarta’s 4 in the first. Steam had seemingly run out for Fes as Jakarta had shut them out in the second inning and put up 4 runs for themselves. This was short lived as Fes had come back the next innning to return the favor and take back the lead. Halfway through the game both teams seemingly needed a reset after a scoreless fourth inning. The very next inning things got back on track with both teams scoring and Fes now up by 3. The sixth inning was when the fireworks started to set off with both teams batting up a storm to mercy each other. Leading into the final inning Fes only had 3 runs to protect. Fes batting in the top of the seventh started off well getting 2 runs in and having the bases loaded. As the next batter gets ready to go up a voice yells out from the Fes dugout stating “ye well Fes’ GDP is higher than Jakarta’s” and it was none other than Mudasir Marfatia trying to talk smack to the other team. With that Jakarta had been humbled,their egos shattered, allowing Fes to put the icing on the cake as their Ace turned Slugger hit a mind boggling Grand Slam to put them up by 9. After scoring an additional run in the top of the seventh, Fes had 3 outs standing between them and the Championship. From here it was up to Fes’ immaculate defense to do what they had done all season, and that is exactly what they did. Fes pulled off a 1,2,3 inning to shutout Jakarta and win the Championship, overcoming the demon that had haunted them all season (and proving once and for all that Numair was better than Saad).
Leadership Core: Hassan Shabbir - Mohammed Ali Marfatia - Numair Aslam - Owais Khimani
Strong leadership is often the backbone of a championship-winning team. The fantastic foursome of Hassan, Mo Ali, Numair, and Owais provided the leadership necessary to guide Fes through the wild ride of the softball season. Their ability to motivate and lead by example was pivotal in maintaining team morale, even when they couldn't locate first base on that darn map.
Numair, stepping into the role of the practice dictator, ensured our team attended practices religiously (pun intended). It didn't matter if he had to threaten to bench us; he made sure we were there, and were the first ones to sign up for BSL-Arranged Practices.
Early in the season, the quartet of leaders regularly seemed to find themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard, leaving them scratching their heads, wondering if victory had a secret hideout. Maybe Mudasir Marfatia, our least experienced player, hesitantly coaching the team was the change we needed. He encouraged our team to play aggressively and not look for any walks. It was like watching a cat teach a dog to meow, hilariously baffling, but somehow, it led to unexpected wins and endless laughs.
Hassan, our first-time captain and GM, faced the challenge of balancing expectations with the realities of uneven growth curves among the team and its members. His growth as a leader was evident throughout the season, though sometimes his leadership resembled a sitcom plot more than a sports strategy.
From batting .397 in the regular season to .818 in the playoffs, Owais continued to shine in clutch moments. His exceptional play in the last inning of the championship game, despite playing a new position at third base, left us wondering if he had a secret stash of his own - one filled with confidence and superhero capes.
Lastly, Mo Ali's realization that he was "actually much better than Hassan" added a touch of humor to our championship story. It served as a reminder that self-belief and confidence are essential elements in achieving success.
Waseem Akhtar: From Ace to Slugger
Waseem's transformation throughout the season was nothing short of remarkable.
Picture this: Waseem had never pitched in softball before, but suddenly, he was the ace of the mound. It was like discovering your grandma is secretly a pro wrestler. After becoming known for his prowess as a pitcher, Waseem slowly but surely evolved into a formidable hitter. His dual role was instrumental in our success, as he hit a Home Run in our quarter finals as well as a GRAND SLAM in the Finals against none other than a former Fes pitcher. Waseem's journey from first base to pitching, combined with his surprising hitting abilities, made him the MVP of "Whatchamacallit" moments
Usman Khan’s Late-Season Surge
Usman's journey during the season was a rollercoaster ride. He could hit a home run or miss the ball entirely, and it was almost impossible to predict which Usman would show up. After some below par showings in the season, Usman promised to deliver in the playoffs. On the day of the Semi-final and Final game, Usman forced himself to get out of bed as he had been battling a severe flu. When it mattered most, Usman stepped up and delivered exceptional performances. 2-4 in Semis with 3 RBIs and 5-5 in the finals with 3 2B, 1 3B, and 1 HR!!!
Meraj and Zaid: Rising from the Ashes
Zaid and Meraj's return to the team in 2023 was like seeing long-lost relatives at a family reunion. Zaid went so far as to perform Hajj to ensure our success, leaving us to question if our team had somehow been blessed by Allah. Upon his return, he showed what a versatile player he is by playing several different positions, before setting in as our second baseman.
Meraj had missed a good chunk of the season early on due to “allegedly” being stuck in Ottawa due to work. towards the end of the season, he was taking on the challenging task of mastering the delicate art of balancing diaper duty and scoring runs for Fes. This first-time dad showed up when it mattered in the playoffs and provided the strong defense in the OF that helped Fes to their first championship.
Esau Habibulla's Resilience and Contribution
Esau's journey to the championship was an obstacle course that included a broken hand (non-displaced fracture of the pinky finger, which we're pretty sure he injured while trying to high-five a cloud). But his determination to overcome this setback and contribute to the team was a plot twist even Bollywood couldn't have predicted. Esau's return mid-season was like the triumphant return of a soap opera character, complete with dramatic music and slow-motion entrances.
Omar Uddin's Last Catch: A Culmination of Growth
One of the defining moments of our championship run was the last catch made by Omar. It was not just a game-winning play; it was the result of a year of hard work, dedication, and continuous self-improvement. Omar’s growth throughout the season was exceptional. His improved fielding skills and unwavering focus became evident in the final moments of the championship game when he made that last crucial catch.
Taha Hasan-Bukhari's Transformation into Big T
Taha's transformation from "Little T" to "Big T" was as unexpected as a plot twist in a telenovela. He put in the work and emerged as a more formidable player, proving that with dedication, there's no limit to his growth and development in softball.
The BSL ll Championship of 2023 was a testament to the remarkable development story anchored by our players. From Omar's last catch to Owais's clutch performance, from Mo Ali's newfound confidence to Numair's practice tyranny, each player's journey contributed to our success. It was a season defined by growth, resilience, and leadership. Our team's victory was a reminder that with dedication, determination, and unwavering teamwork, any challenge can be overcome, and championship dreams can be realized.