Economy hits company softball teams

After the leadoff hitter flied out to left field, it was up to Kevin Stoyer to get the offense rolling.

Jumping on the first pitch, Stoyer ripped the yellow softball to the right side. As the second baseman bobbled it, Stoyer raced to first base, beating the throw. Within minutes, he had stolen second, moved to third on another out and scored on a dropped fly ball.

So began Acousti Engineering's spring softball season last week at Renaissance Park – something that wasn't guaranteed as this month approached.

With the recession straining budgets and causing widespread layoffs, company softball teams have felt an impact. Some have seen players pony up fees instead of business owners. Some have scratched to fill their rosters. Some have vanished altogether.

Though Acousti – an interior commercial construction company – avoided staff cuts, the corporate office in Florida clamped down on extra spending, said Evan Verner, manager of the Charlotte office.

"I didn't even ask if they would let us play softball this year," Verner said, deciding instead to pay the $525 league fee out of his own pocket. "It's not anything that's going to generate us any business, but my guys, they love it."

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