Five days a week, Avon Meacham is a budget analyst for the Department of Agriculture. But several nights a week and almost every weekend, the 33-year-old Millersville resident takes his bureaucratic frustrations out on a softball.
Over the past 10 years, Meacham has become one of the masters of fast-pitch softball, climbing to world-class status.
"He's probably the best lead-off hitter in the country," said Rocci Sentilli, who coached the 5-foot-6, 170-pound Meacham on the U.S. team in the Pan-Am games in 1987.
But Meacham may have become too good to play in the league he enjoyed most.
When Meacham was fresh out of the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore 10 years ago, he started playing softball for Boyd's Twangers in the D.C. Sunday Softball League. But through a technical Amateur Softball Association rule, the league has banned him from play this year.
The rule states that a player cannot be on the roster of more than one ASA team that qualifies for ASA regional or national tournaments. Meacham also plays for a team that travels around the nation on weekends to play in tournaments against top competition.
Most fast-pitch and slow-pitch leagues in the area have lax enforcement of the ASA rule. Although penalties can range from the suspension of a player to disqualification of their teams, players break the rule so they can play more. The teams are willing to overlook the rule because eligibility of individuals is rarely checked by leagues. The rule usually only becomes an issue when an opposing team lodges a protest, which is also rare.
But one of the three commissioners for the DCSSL, Plook Childs, says the league keeps strict tabs on all of its approximately 120 players, making sure they don't play for two teams.
Many of the teams in the DCSSL also play in the Guy Mason League -- the only other fast-pitch league in the District -- and protested to Guy Mason League Commissioner Jack Ross to ban Meacham from that league as well. Ross refused.
"You can run your league the way you want," Ross said he told the DCSSL. "We have no reason to keep him from playing amateur ball."
The DCSSL feels different. The league's commission got together at the beginning of the year, according to the league's business manager, Richard Postell, and decided not to allow Meacham to play.
DCSSL President James Peters denied a preseason meeting ever took place and said Meacham is not banned from the league. "I don't know anything," he said. "He may be banned from some other league, but he's not banned from the D.C. Sunday Softball League."
Peters could not explain why Meacham was not playing in the league this year.
Last year, Meacham was on his way to batting .515 when a team in the league protested his eligibility.
Twangers Manager Gus Banks retained the services of a lawyer, but the league was not then-sanctioned by the ASA so the protest was dropped until this season.
According to Banks, in 1980 the league also banned Twangers pitcher Joe Louis Abney, a member of the Greater Washington Softball Hall of Fame, without giving a reason.
"We win. When you win, nobody likes you," said Banks. "If you play with the Twangers, you might not play . . . and in 10 years, Avon just got too good for them."
Meacham feels this is exactly the reason he should be allowed to play in the DCSSL. "They should feel proud that someone in their area has gone as far as I have," he said.
Meacham is proud of his accomplishments on the field and off it.
He points out that after his parents died when he was 13, he was able to virtually raise himself. He is proud that he graduated from UMES with a 2.9 GPA while playing football for the school. He is pleased with the showing he made at a tryout with the Seattle Seahawks before being cut.
Above all stand his softball accomplishments. He hit .526 and won all-world honors in the 1986 world championships and led all hitters in the 1988 world championships at .510. He was the leading hitter in the 1987 Pan-Am games was the top hitter (.536) in a recent tournament in Canada.
"I worked so hard and finally it gets rewarded," said Meacham. "But I don't feel it until I'm sharing it with my family or sharing it with the Twangers."
Banks, who serves as a father figure for Meacham, turned him around to bat from the left side and utilize his lightning-quick speed (he ran 40 yards in 4.35 seconds in his tryout with the Seahawks). And although he prefers to get on base to help the team, he can also hit with power. He has an excellent chance to make the Pan-Am team again next year.
"It's hard to find 18 better ballplayers than him," around the country, said Sentilli.
One place Meacham won't be found, however, is the D.C. Sunday Softball League.