This has been without a doubt the most active off-season since the league began. Teams have been looking forward to this season since Fall Ball ended in September. Some teams have been more active in organizing themselves than others but things have gotten much more interesting since the Winter Meeting last week. Only seven of the ten teams showed to the meeting and one of the teams not present was the Pink Penguins. The team would meet later in the week to decide whether or not they would be able to participate in the 2014 regular season. Trey "Dub" Hathaway would later contact the commissioner to deliver the news.
The Penguins were one of the most fun teams to watch last season as they found their way through the game and became the most unpredictable team in the league. Ryan Miller developed, what is to many, the filthiest curve ball in the league and Thelmer Damron kept the league going on the mound and walked away with Cy Wiffle when all was said and done. Hathaway led the team when Damron was absent and personally led the team to victory over the Maroon $quad to hand them their first loss of the season. Paul Smith really grew to be a great hitter after initially struggling with strike outs and Brad Koeppen joined the team around halfway through the season and threw a shutout in the playoffs. The Pink Penguins definitely left their mark and will be missed.
But Hathaway mentioned that he still wanted to play and that he would need time to build a team. The commissioner had a counter-offer: join a new start-up team. "I had foreseen that the Pink Penguins were most likely not going to be joining us." Commissioner Smith explained. "Thelmer has a new job now and Miller is said to be getting a second job so things just did not seem to be working out for them. It's a shame though. They were my favorite team to play last year. But when Thelmer did not appear at the [winter] meeting I assumed the worst and got busy immediately seeing if I could get a replacement team going. I then had to ask a friend to come out of retirement."
That "friend" is none other than Jeremy Litton. He is a founding member of the league and started his HWL career as a Terrorhawk in 2012 before leaving the team to start his own franchise, the Welfare Warriors, for the following year. The Warriors franchise met one catastrophe after another least season from losing team mates to injuries to strife among teammates. Smith defended Litton, "He miraculously dragged that franchise to the finish line last year. Greg and I noticed the issues with the team and the fact that he got the team to play the whole season was amazing but we never expected them to actually show up to the playoffs but they did. That's how I knew he was a good team captain." Litton explained his concerns about the Warriors in the first episode of the league podcast and revealed that although the experience left him with a bad taste in his mouth he would still be open to having his own team but "not with the same team members."
But as the off-season kicked off Litton expressed interest in merely the media aspect of the league. After being a guest in the first episode of the podcast he returned as the show's producer. Litton remained in the inner circle for rule debates and agreed to come to games to assist with camera equipment and rule clarification. It appeared that his retirement from the game seemed certain as ten to twelve team expressed interest in playing in 2014. But as we approach spring training and with the recent disbanding of Pink Penguins it was time to call of Jeremy Litton to save the day once again in hopes of keeping an even amount of teams. Litton agreed and began to get to work creating the "Fat Bastards." He got the name from a team he had built for the GDWL three years previous. Michael Sumner is confirmed as a returning player and Trey Hathaway agreed to join the team as well. Thelmer Damron has signed on as a sub player if needed and he will show up to "play as many games as possible." Mike Saxton is rumored to be leaving the Green Bears to join Litton and Zach Daniels, if he returns, will most likely join the team as well. Finally, Chris Ramey will be joining the team after his dramatic exit last year after a rib injury. In summary, Litton has saved the day again.
There were many elements that explain why the Welfare Warriors did so poorly. They had no viable pitchers on the team and they visibly struggled on defense. Those days will be over with the new teammates. Hathaway, Damron, and Saxton all have extensive pitching experience and Sumner, while he did not have a great record, is fairly accurate but never had the outfield to back him up. Zach Daniels had a hot bat that gave Beaver Fever a lot of momentum going into the playoffs and had a lot to do with defeating the Terrorhawks in the first round of the post-season. So in many ways this new team will be a real threat to opponents in the River City Division such as Poker Night (formerly Go Jackie Go) and Honey Badgers which should make for an interesting playoff race.