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Serious play


Kickball leagues make a comeback across the metro area.

Tim Farley September 18th, 2013

Remember playing kickball as a kid on the school playground with the big red ball?

The rules were simple: kick the ball and run fast. Games ended when the recess bell rang, and final scores were often debated with little, if any, resolution.

Many of those same kids have grown up and are reliving their youth in Oklahoma City’s World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA). With competitive and social leagues, there’s something for men and women, old and young, said James Speegle, OKC’s league commissioner.

But, Speegle admitted, kickball is not like other recreational sports, especially softball.

“Softball players are frustrated middle-aged men trying to recapture their athletic glory days. Kickball is for everyone. It’s hard to take yourself too seriously,” he said. “It’s hard to strike out regardless of the number of beers you’ve had.”

OKC has 34 teams in its competitive and social kickball leagues with nearly 1,500 players. That is a drastic change from the handful of teams that played when leagues formed with 150 players just over 3 years ago.

Kicking it

For Clayton Raasch, a member of a top competitive team, kickball is a throwback to his youth.

“It’s a blast. It’s a game you grew up playing. It’s fun and competitive. I look forward to playing each week,” he said.

Team names include the unprintable and the printable: Balls and Dolls, The Big LeBALLskis, Kickin’ Nuggets and others. Remember, these are grown-up kids playing kickball and naming their own teams.

But don’t get the wrong idea. Like other amateur athletes, kickball players slide into bases and make acrobatic catches that sometimes warrant a spot on ESPN’s Top 10 Plays.

Raasch, a former high school football player, still maintains a competitive streak despite reaching the ripe old age of 25.

“Once you play, you’re hooked on it,” he said.

Stacey Hawthorne, a kickballer in her free time and communications director for Arts Council OKC by day, recalled her team’s first game this summer: “We got killed 20-1. We came out with beer bongs and over-celebrated before the game, but we had a good time. Then, we went to the bar and totally redeemed ourselves by winning flip cup,” she joked.

“The best thing about it is the social aspect. It’s a neat and fun idea. You get to drink some beers outside, laugh and kick some balls. It’s friendly competition.”

For some, that might be true. But for a few teams, it’s serious business. The winner of the competitive league receives an automatic invitation to play for the Founders Cup in Las Vegas. Speegle’s team won the spring league title and heads to Vegas next month to battle other champs from around the country.

Where to go

Having grown tenfold since coming to town, OKC’s kickball teams are playing in just about any part of town several nights a week. The competitive league, known as OK Capital, plays on Tuesday nights at Douglass Park, 901 N. Frederick Douglass Ave. The recreational league, Social Lights, plays on Friday nights at Stars and Stripes Park, 3701 S. Lake Hefner Dr. A third league, OK Crimson, has started in Norman.

Unlike the school playground games, there are rules to follow. Eleven players are on the field, and at least four must be of the opposite sex. Competitive teams play five-inning games while the social league games are seven innings.

Teams play eight games each season — spring, summer and fall — plus playoffs.

 
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