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Adults get a kick out of old childhood game

Adult kickball league is competitive fun and a way to meet people

Adult kickball league is competitive fun and a way to meet people

June 10, 2007|By JULIE E. GREENE

FREDERICK, Md. - There's the familiar red rubber ball with dimples, the format similar to baseball and the energetic cheering that goes with a good hit or a runner scoring.

There's also the occasional whiff of cigarette smoke and more serious injuries - a broken arm and a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

This isn't your childhood version of kickball and yet it is in many ways - a big reason an adult kickball league in Frederick County has grown substantially in its second year and has more than 70 people on a waiting list.

"It's nice to bring back kids' games to adults," said Jason Tydings, 31, who lives in Hagerstown's North End. Tydings said when he tells people he plays kickball, they laugh, but that's OK because he's having fun.

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Tydings enjoys coming up with pitching deliveries to distract the hitter. Sometimes he bounces the ball or spins around before he rolls the ball to the plate. It's not uncommon to see him run around half of the mound's perimeter before pitching.

The Frederick Adult Co-ed Kickball Association (FACKA) was started by Jason Mecler, who came up with the idea while reminiscing with friends over drinks about how much they loved the sport as kids.

Mecler, 33, of Frederick, said he's been blown away by the league's success. In two years the league has grown from 125 to 250 active players and from one to 17 sponsors. The league has drawn players from age 21 to mid-50s. They come from Frederick and surrounding counties, including Montgomery County, Md.

The $45 per person entry fee helps pay for T-shirts, equipment and insurance and rents a lighted field at Ballenger Creek Park south of Frederick, where two games are played Tuesday and Thursday nights from May through mid-August.

Washington County Recreation Department officials are considering offering a kickball program next year and have discussed the possibility of Ultimate Frisbee as another way to provide something different for local adults, said Marsha Moats, the department's program coordinator.

Games are mixers as much as lively competitions.

Lee Springer, 30, of Hagerstown, said the league has given him a chance to meet people his age in a setting other than a bar.

Playing a sport he remembers fondly from childhood gave Mike Tomlin, 29, something to do to relax after work and a way to reacquaint himself with friends, said the Hagerstown resident.

In addition to meeting new people, Laura Dayhoff also became reacquainted with a friend, whom she hadn't seen in several years but showed up on the opposing team.

Dayhoff, 26, who lives near Pangborn Elementary School, said she's trying to get more friends from Hagerstown to join the league, but the commute can be a deterrent. As a sales representative for Ralph Lauren Paint, Dayhoff often travels around the Maryland region but can usually make it to games on time.

After last year's games started as early as 6 p.m., this year's games start at 8 or 9 p.m., which makes it easier for commuting players to make it to the game after work.

For Hagerstown resident Frank Yagy, the league also is a chance to network. Yagy, 30, co-owns a custom poker table company, All-In Custom Poker Tables, that also sponsors his kickball team, The PokerHedz.

Katie Trent, 27, of Hagerstown, said the league has been a great way to meet new people and find out what's going on around town that week.

When a friend asked her if she wanted to play kickball, there was no hesitation, Trent said. She has fond memories of playing the sport at St. Mary School in Hagerstown.

In addition to the social atmosphere, Shepherdstown, W.Va., resident Rich Biser, 28, said he enjoys the sport.

The teams in the adult league seem more fair than those of his youth at Old Forge Elementary School, said Biser, who teaches psychology at Boonsboro High School. Those teams, when the popular and athletic kids tended to be picked first, were rather lopsided in skill level.

"It is meant to be fun and a good time and it is, but you'd be surprised how competitive it is," Yagy said.

At a recent Thursday night game, Biser dove to tag out a runner, bench players screamed out directions to baserunners and Tydings stole home.

Teams substitute players throughout the game and strategy is employed.

Players were very aware of the score.

After finishing last in the league last year, Bentz Street One had practices and scrimmages this year and added more players to its roster to improve its chances of winning, said Biser, who plays first base.

"You know, no one wants to lose," Biser said.

For more information ...

For more information about the Frederick Adult Co-ed Kickball Association, go to www.frederickkickball.com or www.myspace.com/frederickkickball.

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